When children come into the world and are held by their parents for the first time, a bond is formed that is unbreakable. Parents play an important role in a child’s life, especially in the first few years – from when children are born until they are on their own, parents are a child’s providers, caregivers, and support system. Since parents play this big role, many states, including the state of Nebraska, have put laws into place that protect a child’s right to this support as well as laws that protect the parents’ right to have a relationship with their child. When there are problems within a family, these issues go to family court.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Mothers have always been seen as the caregivers and nurturers of children – traditional families of years past have always seen fathers going out into the workforce and mothers staying home to care for the children. Because of this, mothers have been favored when it comes to family and child custody issues in the court system, but a father’s role in a child’s life has also been a topic of conversation in many custody decisions. Fathers are equally capable caregivers and nurturers as well as effective disciplinarians, not to mention children with involved fathers in their lives tend to do better academically and socially.
Establishing Paternity in Nebraska
One of the first steps for fathers to uphold their parental rights in court is to establish their child’s paternity – this is also important so that children can seek out the benefits they are entitled to, which come from their mother and father under state law. In the state of Nebraska, there are two ways in which parents can establish a child’s paternity – a voluntary process that occurs between the parents and an involuntary process that includes a court order and a possible DNA test. The method that is used is determined by the dynamic between the parents and the circumstances of their case.
The easiest and most cost-effective way for parents to establish paternity is through the voluntary process using a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. When both parents are in agreement on the child’s paternity, they both sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity in the presence of a notary public. When the form is completed by the parents, it needs to be filed with the Department of Health and Vital Statistics, and the father’s name is then added to the child’s birth certificate. At this point, the father takes on all of the rights and responsibilities of the child.
The second and somewhat more difficult method that parents can use to establish paternity is through a Paternity Petition with the family court system. This method is used when the mother and father cannot agree on who the child’s father is and do not sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. At this point, the mother or father can file a Paternity Petition with the court to have a judge establish paternity. Additionally, a grandparent, a guardian, or the Department of Social Services can file a Paternity Petition depending on the circumstances surrounding the case.
Once a Paternity Petition has been filed, the court requires the child, mother, and alleged father to submit to genetic or DNA testing. Should the alleged father refuse to submit to this testing, the judge may consider his noncooperation evidence of him being the child’s father. A Paternity Petition must be filed with the court before the child turns 18 unless the child him or herself is filing the petition, in which case it can be filed at any time. With either method, the main reason for establishing paternity is to benefit the child’s best interests by giving him or her a right to support from both parents.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
After paternity has been established, it is common for the judge to move into a child custody case. In the state of Nebraska, child custody cases are based around the “best interests of the child” standard. This standard states that custody decisions need to be made in a manner that supports the best interests of the children involved in the case. The factors judges look at when making this decision generally fall into one of the following categories:
- The Child’s Health
- The Child’s Safety
- The Child’s Emotional Needs
- The Child’s Developmental or Physical Needs
- Each Parent’s Parenting Skills
- Each Parent’s Financial Stability
- Each Parent’s Willingness to Work with the Other Parent
Nebraska state law requires all parents who are going through a divorce or dealing with child custody issues to attend parenting classes soon after their case begins. These classes provide parents with information about mediation, parenting plans, the legal process, and the effects divorce and child custody issues can have on children. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, parents may only be required to attend one class or possibly multiple classes. After attending these classes, parents have the opportunity to create a parenting plan, which judges prefer in these cases.
In Nebraska, there are a few options for custody that courts have to choose from. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions regarding his or her child’s welfare including decisions about health and education. Physical custody refers to a parent’s right regarding where the child resides and which parent has the primary care of the child. Under state law, the judge must consider joint custody as an option for a child custody case in which both parents share legal and physical custody – courts generally believe it is in children’s best interests to have both parents equally involved in their life.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Nebraska
In Nebraska child custody cases where joint custody is not an option, one parent is named the primary custodial parent. This parent has the main responsibility of caring for the child, and the child resides with that parent for the majority of the time. In these cases, the non-custodial parent is often ordered to pay child support to help financially support the child. Child support is meant to be used to help saddle the expenses of raising the child including shelter, food, clothing, education, and medical expenses as well as any of the child’s other needs.
In cases where the father is awarded the title of primary custodial parent, he has an equal right to collect child support as a mother in the same position. When fathers have issues collecting the ordered child support, they also have equal access to child support enforcement in the state. Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services has a specific department called Child Support Enforcement (CSE) that can help parents dealing with child support payment issues.
How a Father’s Rights Lawyer Can Help
When fathers find themselves facing the legal system and child custody issues, a father’s rights lawyer can be an invaluable resource. These legal professionals can help explain fathers’ parental rights and also help build a case so that fathers can get deserved time and involvement with their children. Often times, not having legal help can lead to case outcomes that are not favorable for fathers.