VICKIE LYNN COCHRAN attorney at law
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Unmarried fathers face changing rights

For married fathers, establishing paternity is not typically much of an issue, but things have not always been so simple for unmarried fathers. Their paternity is sometimes challenged or they are simply not given the same rights as married fathers, even if they claim to be related. They are often given titles like alleged, presumed or reputed fathers. In Arkansas, for instance, they are known as putative fathers.

Many issues have sprung up from this difference in rights. For instance, mothers may decide that they want to put their children up for adoption, and fathers may not have any right to say that this can't happen, as they would if they were married.

However, this is something that has been changing over the last few decades. Citing the 14th Amendment, unmarried fathers have been fighting for their rights when it comes to their children. In turn, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled numerous times in favor of these fathers.

There are some stipulations; most of the rulings for the fathers said that they had more rights if their relationship with their children was substantial. Essentially, this meant that fathers who had left and weren't trying to be involved in their children's lives couldn't stop an adoption, but fathers who were involved and who had serious relationships with their children were given more power.

This relationship did need to be demonstrated by the father, or the father at least had to be making an effort to establish the relationship.

Since the rights of unmarried fathers are changing, it's very important for all fathers to know what changes have taken place, what rights they have and what they need to do to defend those rights.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "The Rights of Unmarried Fathers," accessed May. 27, 2015

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