What are a Father’s Rights in Maine?
The parent-child bond is probably the strongest one that most people know and it is not broken by a divorce or separation.
When parents separate, life must continue and couples must find a way to limit the negative consequences for their children.
That’s easier said than done, of course, but with patience and collaboration between the mother and father, most couples find a way.
The Maine family law courts are set up to help in that respect, ensuring that decisions are made in the best interests of the child, first and foremost.
For fathers, it helps to know what your rights are with issues such as custody, visitation, and support as you discuss these matters with your ex-spouse.
The ‘best interest’ doctrine for child custody
Child custody and support issues are major considerations for judges within the Maine family law system. The standard to be applied in all such cases is the “best interests” of the children. It is also important to note that the term “custody” is no longer used in Maine, and has been replaced with the term “residency”, which is used to indicate where the child primarily resides.
While the rights of the parents must be respected and considered, the paramount consideration must be the welfare and interest of the child rather than the parents.
It is important to note, however, that even if a judge deems that the child’s best interests are served by placing them in the care of one parent only, the other parent does not generally lose parental rights.
Does the court favor one parent over another in custody cases?
Under Maine laws, both parents are considered to be fit and able guardians of their child and both parents are equally entitled to have relatively equal time, care, and parental rights concerning their child.
A father, then, has the same parental rights and responsibilities as the mother and no gender favoritism can be exercised in child custody cases.
If, however, there is evidence that one parent is unfit to perform the role or endangers the child, parental rights and responsibilities may be affected as the court has a duty to protect the child. Cases of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, child neglect, substance abuse, or any other situation that could place the child in danger may force a judge to act to the detriment of one parent or the other.
Primary residency (custody) may be awarded to the other parent and any visits by the offending parent to the child may need to be supervised to protect the child. The court may also curtail that parents parental rights and responsibilities by taking decision making power from that parent out of his / her hands with respect to decisions over the religious, medical and schooling decisions for the child.
The father’s influence on a child’s life
In recent times, judges in Maine have preferred to award shared parental rights and responsibilities for the children to both parents. This is generally seen as the healthiest arrangement for a child’s upbringing and wellbeing. With that said, generally, one parent will be considered the custodial or residential parent, which is where the child will reside for more than 50% of the time.
Rather than sold parental rights and responsibilities, and sole custody being awarded to the mother, as was often the case previously in contested cases, the role of the father in the child’s life is now viewed as equally essential in a child’s care, upbringing, and development.
Studies have shown that children with loving fathers who actively participate in their lives can develop better social skills and academic performance.
How to establish paternity in Maine
In most cases where a child is born within a marriage in Maine, the legal and biological father is assumed to be the husband of the mother.
However, in some contested cases, paternity needs to be proven. This is also often necessary for children born outside of marriage.
In Maine, paternity can be established in one of two ways:
- Acknowledgement of Paternity form: by signing this form, both parents acknowledge that the father of the child is the male who signed it. The form, which can be obtained from the hospital or medical facility where the child is born in Maine, must be signed by both parents in front of a notary public.
- Court order: any party (mother, child or father) can file a paternity action with the court with legal representation. In rare cases, the action can also be brought by the Division of Support Enforcement and Recovery (DSER) if the child receives public assistance.
With a court case, the parties involved can settle their issue or go to trial and have a judge decide the outcome. If the judge determines that the male in question is the child’s father, a paternity judgement is issued naming the male as the child’s legal and biological father, formally establishing paternity.
Remember, once a father establishes paternity, it also establishes the responsibility to pay child support, medical support, and other costs associated with the child should the relationship with the other parent end in the future.
In court cases, the judge may also make essential decisions relating to custody, residence, and visitation if appropriate to do so.
What are a father’s rights to child residency and visitation?
Providing that contact with the father is viewed as being in the best interests of the children, as in the vast majority of cases in Maine, a father’s contact with his children is encouraged by the courts.
Judges must make residency and visitation decisions that are in a child’s best interests, considering their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Because mothers and fathers have equal rights when the case begins, the judge will consider the relative merits of both parents as caregivers when determining the primary residency for the child.
What are a father’s rights to child support in Maine?
If a child is placed primarily in the care of his or her father (i.e., the child lives with him most of the time), the mother may be ordered to pay child support to the father.
Because mothers and fathers have equal parental rights in Maine, this extends to the right to receive child support. Each case depends on the specific circumstances.
Fathers can also access governmental support services, such as child support enforcement assistance, through the DSER if required.
Contact a father’s rights expert in Maine today
For assistance with establishing paternity or any other issue concerning father’s rights, contact an attorney at The Maine Divorce Group directly online or by phone at 207-494-2779.
Call 207-230-6597 or contact us online to schedule a consult with one of our highly skilled family law attorneys today.
We serve many clients, just like you, across Maine in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, & Lincoln Counties.
Contact The Maine Divorce Group today
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