Fathers’ Rights in Pennsylvania
Gender equality in the courtroom
With the breakdown of traditional gender roles, a "Mr. Mom" is no longer a rarity. The laws support the best interests of the child and to have the father present in a child's life. Fathers' rights in Pennsylvania exist to help many fathers build and retain relationships with their children after divorce.
The statutes first address paternity in cases where this is an issue. A father may initiate a paternity case in the county where the child lives. Ultimately, the goal is to obtain a court ordered DNA test to establish paternity. DNA tests are highly accurate and relied upon by the court.
In Pennsylvania, custody statutes are gender neutral. The mother is not favored by default and the father is not subject to different standards. When the child's best interests are at stake, the statutes in Pennsylvania are concerned with providing a stable and nurturing environment. Allowing a child to have both parents when possible is the priority. To do so, a parent can petition the court for custody. Custody is broken down into legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the legal right to make major decisions affecting the best interests of a minor child, such as medical, religious and educational decisions. Physical custody means actual physical possession and control of a child.
Even when a father does not have custody of his child or children, Pennsylvania makes it clear that a father has the right to visitation in most cases. This fosters the development of a deep and meaningful relationship with the child. The laws are intended to benefit society, starting with protecting the overall positive development of children.
Unfortunately, there are parents who do not consider the best interests of their child. A court may terminate a parent's rights based upon any of the following grounds, pursuant to 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2511(a).
1. The parent has shown he/she wants to give up parental rights or has refused or failed to undertake parental duties for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition;
2. the child has been without proper care, control or subsistence needed for his/her well-being due to incapacity, abuse, or neglect of the parent and failure of the parent to remedy those conditions;
3. the father is only the child's presumptive father, and is not the biological father;
4. the parent abandoned the child, cannot be found and has not made any contact for at least three months;
5. the court removed the child from the parent's custody or the child was removed under a voluntary agreement for at least six months, those same conditions still exist, the parent is unable or unwilling to remedy the conditions in a reasonable amount of time, services provided to the parent are not likely to remedy the conditions and termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest;
6. the child is a newborn and the parent is aware or should be aware of the child's birth, does not live with the child, is not married to the child's other parent and has not contacted or financially supported the child for at least four months before the petition was filed;
7. the child was conceived as the result of a rape;
8. the court removed the child from the parent's custody or the child was removed under a voluntary agreement for at least 12 months, those conditions still exist and termination of parental rights is in the child's best interest;
9. the parent has been convicted of committing a serious crime against one of his/her children, including homicide or aggravated assault.
It cannot be emphasized enough that the primary focus of the court is on the well-being of the child. Whether the parent is the mother or father is of little consequence according to the laws. Fathers rights in Pennsylvania are an area of growing interest as more fathers reject stereotypical gender roles. Fortunately for the children of Pennsylvania, the laws protect this option.
If you need more information on fathers rights, you need the knowledge and tenacity to protect the best interests of your family. Call the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. to schedule a consultation with an attorney, at (215) 942-2100.