Regardless of the fact that the family court now uses the "child's best interest" doctrine to determine and award child custody, there still remains a gender bias leaning more toward mothers. And, although we have come a long way, fathers are still somewhat the underdog in family court.
If an unwed father wishes to exercise any amount of parental rights, he must first establish paternity. If an unwed mother is considering adoption or abortion, establishing paternity takes on an urgent importance and should be addressed immediately. While an established father cannot prevent an expectant mother from terminating a pregnancy, he may be able to exercise his parental rights to argue against adoption. Parental rights allow both the mother and father to have the stay when it comes to choosing to place a child up for adoption
Research has suggested that children who have an active and involved father benefit directly from that relationship. In fact, it is this research that has paved the way for the federal Family and Medical Leave Act that provides fathers up to 12 weeks of leave after the birth of their child.
There are still biases out there that prevent or challenge a father's parental rights. Although research supports the idea of an involved father, some mothers still argue for sole custody. Divorcing or unwed fathers that are concerned with these biases affecting their parenting may benefit by working with an experienced father's rights attorney. With their knowledge and resources, it may be possible for divorcing and unwed fathers to establish paternity, exercise their parental rights and seek joint custody or visitation. Father's rights have come a long way, but they still have a long way to go. Working with an attorney can help fathers pave the way to equality in the family court.