Children and their parents share a special bond that forms the moment children are born. Parents have a big responsibility to care for, nurture, and support their children for the first many years of their lives, and while many parents happily accept this responsibility, there are some parents who do not understand what this responsibility entails. In order to protect the best interests of children within their state, many states have developed laws to help protect children and keep the parent-child relationship intact. When these types of issues arise, they usually end up in Ohio family law court.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
We have traditionally seen mothers hold higher favor in the family court system, due in large part to the traditional family structure where the father works and the mother stays home to care for their children. However, in recent years, we have seen a much higher emphasis placed on the important role a father plays in a child’s life. In addition to being capable caregivers, nurturers, and providers, fathers also play a crucial role in their child’s social and academic development. Additionally, links have also been established between the involvement of a loving father and a child’s development of language.
Establishing Paternity in Ohio
One of the issues the Ohio family court system often sees revolves around paternity. When a married couple has a child in the state of Ohio, it is assumed the mother’s husband is the child’s legal and biological father. However, when an unmarried couple has a child, they must take additional steps to establish paternity in the eyes of the legal system. The term “establishing paternity” refers to the legal process of identifying the child’s father and ensuring the child’s biological father also becomes the child’s legal father. In the state of Ohio, this can be accomplished in one of two ways.
The first and easiest method of establishing paternity is through an Acknowledgement of Paternity affidavit. Signing this affidavit is a voluntary, simple process that unmarried couples usually opt for. This form can be completed and signed at the birthing center or hospital after the child is born, and the staff at these facilities should be trained on this process and can answer any of the couple’s questions. An Acknowledgement of Paternity affidavit needs to be signed in the presence of a witness or a notary public, both of which can be provided by the birthing center or hospital.
By signing this form, both individuals are agreeing that the male signing the form is the child’s biological and legal father and it is appropriate for the male’s name to be added to the child’s birth certificate. Once the form has been signed, the staff at the birthing center or hospital ensures that the paperwork is filed with the Office of Vital Statistics for the state of Ohio as well as the Central Paternity Registry. This form can also be acquired after the child has left the hospital.
The second and decidedly more difficult method for establishing paternity is by filing a Paternity Lawsuit. This lawsuit can be brought to the court by either the child’s mother, the presumed father, or by any lawyer representing the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) if the child or the mother involved in the case is receiving financial assistance from the state. The CSEA office located in the county in which the mother lives often works to resolve paternity cases before they go to court.
Often, the CSEA requires all parties involved to submit to genetic or DNA testing, which the agency pays for, to determine the child’s biological father. Once the results have been received, the CSEA issues an “Order of Established Paternity,” which resolves the question of the identity of child’s biological father. This also gives the child’s father the legal ability to ask a judge for custody or visitation of the child. Should the parties involved in the case not be satisfied with this outcome and the issues cannot be resolved by the CSEA, the lawsuit then goes to juvenile probate court.
At this point, the parties involved in the case have the option to settle their lawsuit or have the issue go to trial. Should they opt to go to trial, the judge decides if the alleged father is or is not the child’s biological and legal father. The judge also has the option to order genetic or DNA testing if it was not performed already. The judge then issues a Final Paternity Order, which means the identity of the child’s legal and biological father has been formally established. Once this is completed, the court can then begin assessing the financial obligations, such as child support, and make decisions about custody.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
After paternity has been established, it is not uncommon for the child’s legal and biological father to ask for custody or visitation with the child – this is the case when the parents are no longer involved with one another and are living in separate households. When it comes to determining custody, the court system in the state of Ohio follows the “best interests of the child” standard, meaning it makes a custody determination that best suits the child’s needs and wellbeing. Both the child’s mother and father are evaluated equally to determine who the best primary caregiver is.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Ohio
Should the father be awarded primary custody of the child, meaning the child resides with him and is in his care the majority of the time, he can file a child support petition. Child support is a financial payment from the non-custodial parent to the primary custodial parent to help financially support the needs of the child. These payments are meant to be used to provide the child with clothing, food, and shelter and help with the costs of medical care, tuition, and other expenses associated with caring for the child. When a father is named the primary custodial parent, he has a right to collect child support.
How a Father’s Rights Lawyer Can Help
The family court system and laws associated with it can often be difficult to navigate, and fathers are often not aware of their rights and do not know how to enforce them. Any man who is facing paternity, child custody, or child support issues should seek the legal counsel of a knowledgeable attorney who is well-versed in the family laws and father’s rights laws for the state of Ohio. These legal professionals can explain to their client what their rights are, how to approach the issues facing them, and the possible outcomes for the case. This legal assistance is crucial for any father facing a family court issue who wants to remain involved and present in his child’s life.