Your Rights As a Father With a Newborn Baby
When a mother and father decide to part ways when their baby is still an infant, or even before the baby is born, it can be difficult to determine custody. There are many courts that still hold the notion that the baby needs to be with its mother and vice versa, especially if the mother is breastfeeding. However, most courts today agree to apply the “best interests doctrine” to determine what is in the best interests of the child, no matter their age. And a majority of courts will agree that having equal time with both parents is in the child’s best interests. If you are the father of a newborn baby, and you are no longer with the mother but wish to maintain parental rights of your child, the child custody attorneys at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White can ensure that you receive equal rights of your child and are able to build and maintain a relationship with him or her.
The first step you will need to take to obtain custodial rights to your child is to establish the fact that you are in fact the baby’s legal father. If you and your child’s mother was married at the time of the child’s birth, the matter should be settled, as you should be on the child’s birth certificate as the legal father. If you and your child’s mother were not married at the time of his or her birth, but the mother put you on the birth certificate, that is all the proof you will need. However, if you and your child’s mother were not married at the time of his or her birth, and if the mother did not put you on the birth certificate, you must file for a paternity test in the family courts. If the DNA test proves that you are the father, you will be granted parental rights.
Determining Legal Custody
Once your status as the legal father is established, your job is not done. The courts will then require you to go through the same custody proceedings as a divorcing couple or any other separating parents. Custody is divided into physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines where the child will reside, while legal custody determines which parent should have the right to make important decisions such as where the child goes to school, which doctor they will see, what religion they should practice, and the like. Legal custody can be sole, joint, or shared. The courts will aim to give both parents legal custody (joint), unless they feel that doing so will not serve the best interests of the child. With joint legal custody, both parents have a say in all important decisions involving the child until he or she reaches 18, or when the courts determine that they are old enough to make their own decisions.
Physical custody is typically the type of custody that most parents are concerned with, as this is the type of custody that determines where the child will reside. Again, the courts will try to grant joint physical custody, as equal time with both parents is almost always in the best interests of the child. However, on occasion, the courts will deter from the norm. Sometimes, a parent simply lives too far from the proposed school district in order for it to make sense for the child to reside with him or her throughout the school week. Other times, a parent’s work schedule will not allow him or her to get the child to school or to pick them up on time. And in some unfortunate instances, the courts may feel that a parent is “unfit” to care for the child. An unfit parent may be one that is abusive, addicted to drugs, or mentally or physically unwell.
In the case of a newborn, the courts will likely award the majority of physical custody to the mother. This is only because she is likely on maternity leave so can spend the time with the infant necessary for healthy development. Furthermore, the mother might be breastfeeding, another healthy part of development that the courts do not want to interrupt. However, once the child is older and no longer requires night-feeding or breastfeeding, and once the mother has returned to work, the courts may require a revisitation of the custody agreement.
Determining Parenting Time
However, just because the mother may get full physical custody of the infant does not mean that the father will not have any parenting rights. The judge may award the father two to three hours of visitation each day, or even a full day on weekends. Typically, the judge will request that the parents try to work out an agreement themselves, but in the event that they are unable to, the judge will set up a schedule based on the baby’s feeding schedule and sleep patterns. This is the schedule that the parents will adhere to until the child is taking formula from a bottle, at which point the courts may award the father overnight visits here and there.
Many times, the mother of an infant will use breastfeeding as an excuse to deny overnight visits with the father. If the courts suspect that this is the case, they may investigate into whether breastfeeding is more important than the development of the bond between father and baby.
Reach Out to a Boca Raton Child Custody Attorney
If you are the father of an infant and you wish to obtain more custody rights of your baby, contact the Boca Raton child custody attorneys at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White. We can help you to show the courts why you deserve more physical custody rights of your baby, and how more time with you is in your baby’s best interests. To schedule your initial consultation today, call 561.391.9943.