The traditional family has evolved into something that’s anything but traditional in recent years. The number of single parents has consistently risen in recent decades and currently, 2.2 million households have single fathers who are raising their children without the benefit of the children’s mother. This is a 62 percent increase between 2000 and 2010.

But what about the unmarried fathers in Rochester who may not have full custody, but are very much a part of their children’s lives or are trying to be? Single fathers are entitled to play a role in the lives of their little ones, but like so many dramas unfolding in courtrooms around the nation, it’s not as simple as a judge ordering the custodial parent to allow the non-custodial parent into their shared child’s life. Paternity tests continue to be part of the dynamic in these types of family legal cases.

If there are no questions of paternity, from a legal perspective, attention turns to child support and other financial obligations. While unmarried fathers have rights in New York, their children also have rights, which among other things, includes the right to live safely with all of their needs being met. This is typically accomplished by both parents working together, though that’s not always the case.

Financial Obligations

New York courts are required to use guidelines built into the state law when it comes to child support, though those guidelines allow for some flexibility. New York’s family courts maintain discretion to make appropriate adjustments if they are necessary. If, for instance, a child’s needs include costly medical treatments, the courts can shape the child support element in such a way that evenly distributes the financial responsibility between parents. Fortunately, New York still recognizes the unique situations that simply cannot fit into the “traditional” guidelines. That flexibility matters in such cases.

For many fathers who have sole custody of their children, it’s not uncommon for them to tread lightly. Many do not pursue child support from their exes because they fear it could result in the child’s mother rethinking the situation and then considering her own legal options. Many fathers have concerns that the mother is the preferred custodial parent, even though that’s no longer the case.

A Parent’s Rights And Factors

There are several important factors that are weighed when considering either parents’ rights.

  • The child’s wishes, provided he or she is old enough to understand what their wishes might mean if they are honored
  • The psychological and physical health of each parent
  • The relationship between the parent and child
  • Alcohol or drug issues
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the little ones are targeted or who have no choice but to bear witness to the abuse
  • Religion
  • Relationships with siblings and step-siblings
  • The security and stability of each parent’s home

If you are concerned that your rights as an unmarried father in Rochester are being ignored, consider your legal options especially if you’re unsure what those options might include. Solid legal advice from a family law attorney can help guide you to the best decisions for you and your children. Contact our family law attorneys to learn more.