We are often asked “What are my legal rights as a father?” in a San Diego family law case. There is a national law firm who markets “Father’s Rights.” The fact of the legal matter in California is this:
Under California family law a “father” has exactly precisely the same rights when it comes to divorce, child custody and parenting time and every other facet of family as the “mother” or person he is married to.
An unmarried father is at a bit of a disadvantage to the mother of a child unless and until he asserts his parental and fatherly rights in a paternity action. The father of the child must prove he is the child’s parent and then assert his rights to custody, visitation. He must also share his portion of support for the child.
The fact of whether a married person is a “father” or “mother” makes no difference in the eyes of the Family Court at the outset of divorce proceedings, a child custody or parenting time matter or any other family law case.
Each party before the Court has the same rights. Given that all things are basically equal, California Family Courts favor joint physical and legal custody. Community property is to be equally divided between the parties. This is the starting point of any family law case.
Your legal rights as a father are the same as the legal rights of your wife at the outset. Then the Court must begin the process of evaluating the unique aspects of your case. Who are you as individuals? What do you bring to the situation at hand?
If each party works, earns basically the same amount of money and actively participates and is a healthy influence in the life of each child custody and parenting time are likely going to be shared without the need for any type of financial support from one party to the other.
If all things between each individual parent are not in balance, the Court will work to balance the equation. If one party earns significantly more than the other the Court will usually consider forms of financial support. If domestic violence or other harmful or negative behaviors or influences are present the Court will protect the best interests of each child accordingly.
Your legal rights as a father at the outset of a family law case are precisely the same as the person to whom you are or were married. Each party has equal rights at the outset as the Court begins to weigh the specific and unique aspects of your individual case.