There is no denying the immediate, special, and loving bond parents form with their children when they come into the world. For the first years of children’s lives, their parents are their providers, caregivers, and nurturers. Because the relationship children and their parents share is so special, many states including the state of North Dakota have passed laws to help protect the parents’ rights to a relationship with their children and also ensure the children receive the support they need from both of their parents. When family-based legal issues arise, these issues are settled in North Dakota family court.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Mothers have traditionally had the “upper hand” when it comes to family law and family court issues due much in part to the fact that mothers have traditionally been the primary caregivers of children. While some modern families still follow the structure of the father working and the mother staying home to raise children, more modern court rulings have seen an increased importance placed on the effects fathers have on their child’s life and the importance of upholding a father’s parental rights. Fathers are equal caregivers, providers, and nurturers for children when compared to their female counterparts and also play a critical role in a child’s educational and social success.
Establishing Paternity in North Dakota
One of the most important steps fathers need to take in order to enforce their parental rights is to establish their child’s paternity. In the state of North Dakota, there are some differences in how married and unmarried couples go about establishing paternity. When a child is born to a married couple, it is assumed under law that they are the child’s legal and biological parents, and no further action needs to be taken to establish paternity. However, when a child is born to unmarried parents, they do need to take some additional steps to establish paternity.
Establishing paternity refers to the process of making sure a child’s biological father also becomes the legal father. Establishing paternity is beneficial as it gives a child born to unmarried parents the same rights as a child born to married parents. Unmarried couples in the state of North Dakota need to take additional legal steps in order to establish the child’s paternity and ensure the child has access to the rights and benefits he or she deserves. In this state, there are two methods unmarried parents can use to establish their child’s paternity.
The first is a voluntary process involving both parents signing a legal document known as an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). If there are any doubts as to who the child’s biological father is, parents should opt not to sign an AOP right away as once this form is filed, it can be difficult to have reversed. Couples who are unmarried and have a child often choose to sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital or birthing center after the child is born – these facilities have all of the necessary forms, and the staff should be trained to assist with this type of paperwork.
Once the parents have signed the AOP, they are stating they are in agreement as to who the child’s legal and biological father is and are giving up their right to have genetic or DNA testing completed. After the form has been signed, the staff at the hospital or birthing center file the form with the Department of Vital Records for the state, and the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. Should the parents not be able to come to an agreement about the identity of the child’s biological father, they do have a second option to file a Paternity Lawsuit with the state.
A Paternity Lawsuit can be filed with the district court governing the area that either parent lives in or can be filed by a government lawyer on behalf of the Child Support Enforcement (CSE) agency – CSE usually gets involved in paternity cases if the child or the child’s mother is receiving financial assistance from the state. If any party involved in the case requests DNA testing, it is ordered by the court, and all parties involved must submit to this testing. If they refuse, they could be held in contempt of court, which is punishable by fines or jail time.
Should the case go to trial, a judge issues a final order of paternity and decides whether the alleged father in the case is indeed the child’s legal and biological father. Once this order has been issued, paternity has officially been established under the law, and the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. At this time, the judge can also enter an order to assess the financial obligations of the father and make any necessary decisions regarding child custody and visitation as well as residency. All of these decisions are made with the child’s best interests in mind.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
As mentioned, judges in the state of North Dakota make their child custody and visitation decisions based on the “best interests of the child” standard. This means decisions regarding the child’s residency as well as a visitation schedule by the non-custodial parents are all made with the child’s best interests and wellbeing in mind. When it comes to determining the primary custodial parent, or the parent who is in charge of caring for the child the majority of the time, the judge looks at a number of different relevant factors and treats the mother and father on a level playing field.
Father’s Right to Child Support in North Dakota
In cases where the father is deemed the more “fit” parent and is awarded primary custody, he has equal right to petition for child support and also has equal access to child support enforcement services through the state. Child support is a financial payment usually from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent meant to help cover the expenses related to the child’s care including clothing, shelter, food, medical costs, health insurance costs, and educational costs. When parents are having a hard time collecting child support payments, they can enlist the help of the Child Support Enforcement agency for the state of North Dakota.
How a Father’s Rights Lawyer Can Help
Navigating family-based laws and the family court system can often be a difficult and confusing situation to go through. When it comes to fathers looking to enforce their parental rights, it is vitally important for them to seek the legal advice and support of an attorney who is well-versed in the state’s family laws and has a deep understanding of father’s rights. These legal professionals are able to explain their client’s parental rights, are able to develop a strategy to take to court, and are also able to let their client know the various outcomes of the child custody, visitation, child support, or paternity lawsuit case.
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