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The Verified Declaration of Paternity: Getting a Bio Dad Legal Rights from Birth

Baby Daddies

Baby Daddies are NOT disposable.

Because I have either (a) been living under a rock, or (b) have only interacted with unmarried parents when they were fighting, I was not aware of an option biological fathers have to gain legal rights to their children:  They can sign a voluntary declaration of paternity.  If you and your significant other are on good terms when having a baby together, but NOT married, this is a way for the bio dad to be legally recognized as the child’s father right from birth.  What this means is that bio dad has the same rights and responsibilities in relation to his child as bio mom does, as opposed to having ZERO rights in relation to his child.  The parents’ status is as though they were married when the child was born.

What this does NOT mean: A voluntary declaration of paternity does NOT put in place custody and parent time for the parents, any more than being married gives one parent or another automatic custody and parent time orders.  If you and your significant other break up, and you want to have something enforceable to address who gets to see or have custody of your child and when, you WILL need to go through a court action, just like if you’d been married and get divorced.  These are called Custody and Paternity actions (even though paternity is already established).

Dad&Diaper

Dad’s aren’t just for Disneyland, ya know…

An example of the benefits (or hazards, depending on which side you’re on) of having a voluntary declaration of paternity in place:

I recently became aware of a woman who had had a child with a former boyfriend.  They had never been married, and dad hadn’t even been around for most of the kid’s life.  Dad hadn’t paid child support ever, had moved out of state, and went long periods of time without any contact with the child at all.  BUT, when the child was born, mom and dad were still in love, and they signed a voluntary declaration of paternity at the hospital, along with all the other forms they have you sign when you have a baby in a hospital.  It was done in conjunction with the form that you fill out to get a birth certificate issued.

Dad and Mom hadn’t been together in years.  Mom was living with a new boyfriend; Dad was living with a new girlfriend.  An incident occurred in Mom’s life that caused DCFS to get involved with the child.  The State was NOT going to take the child out of Mom’s custody over this, however.  But Dad got wind of it, showed up at the child’s school one day shortly thereafter, picked up the kid, and left the state with him.  He could legally do that because of that voluntary declaration of paternity.  He has just as much right to his child as Mom does; and because there was no court order spelling out custody and parent time at that time, there was absolutely nothing Mom could do about it.

I don’t tell you this story so you can go out, sign a voluntary declaration, and then break up with Mom and steal the baby.  That’s a bullshit move if ever there was one.  But as a biological father, this truly is the best way to gain legal standing in your child’s life from the beginning…and the legal part is actually FREE if you do it at the hospital following the child’s birth.

The one hitch in this:  Both the biological father AND birth mother MUST sign the paternity declaration.  This is not something bio dad can do if mom is not on board with it.  But the point is this:  Getting paternity declared or otherwise legally determined is a big deal when it comes to having the right to be involved in your child’s life, or to even have custody of your child if something happens that keeps mom from being able to care for the child (like dying, becoming incapacitated, going to jail, etc.)  For an example of HOW important it is, just check out my post about Jose Vargas and his fight for custody of his daughter against the State of Utah (DCFS).

Now that you’re convinced that you need to get paternity legally acknowledged, here’s more information about how to actually get it done:

This is a link to a brochure produced by the State of Utah with steps to take and contact information for the agencies you need to work with to make a voluntary declaration of paternity, as well as what it costs if you don’t get it done at the hospital immediately after the child’s birth.

The Utah Courts website also has information about the various ways to get paternity legally acknowledged for the purpose of Dad having rights to his kid, even without a voluntary declaration…you can find that here (and you don’t have Mom on board to do all of them).

And the statute in Utah, the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity Act, can be found here.

Dad reading to kids

Kids need their dads involved in their lives.  Let’s not cut them out, mmmkay?

The reality is that bio dads do not automatically have rights to their kids unless they’re married to bio mom (and she can give away your kid, too, without even telling you about it, if you’re not fast enough off the line…check out this poor guy’s situation).  The state can put you on the hook for child support and you still wouldn’t have any right to see your babies.  If you really want to be involved with your son or daughter, you’ve got to get the legal stuff taken care of.  This is the most serious case of “you snooze, you lose.”  Do it for yourself, but more importantly–do it for your kid.

 

 

More Myths from Divorceland: The DisneyLand Dad

We’ve all heard the term–Disneyland Dad.  This is the father who doesn’t have to be involved with the kids on a day to day basis, who “gets” to just be the one who the kids have fun with, the one with “no responsibility,” because he doesn’t have to do blah, blah blah Hard Stuff…  Generally we hear about Disneyland Dads from custodial moms who are more than a little bitter.  But there are some problems with this categorization, which land it into Myth status.

Problem #1:  The assumption here is that it’s dad’s CHOICE to only spend time with the kids every other weekend, a few hours on a weekday (if that), and some time during the summer and at holidays.  Mom makes it sound like Dad is skipping out on the day to day parenting, the homework, the colds, the trips to the doctor, all of that Parent Stuff.  And why would that be?

It’s that way because Dad is the non-custodial parent.  That’s all he’s been allowed to be by a court order…And a lot of the time that court order put him in that position because that’s what Mom insisted on, sometimes just so she can be in control and force Dad to pay child support.  And why wouldn’t Dad want to take what little time he has to be with his kids and have fun with them?  That only makes sense.  I’m not saying it’s always this way, but it definitely IS this way some of the time.

Problem #2:  If Mom is really interested in Dad carrying more of the substantive responsibility, guess what?  She can involve him more.  If the parents live in close proximity to each other, there’s no reason Mom can’t do this. She can actually co-parent with Dad, as opposed to cutting him out of any part of the kids’ lives that she isn’t court ordered to allow.  I mean, if both mom and dad work, why SHOULDN’T dad take a day off work to stay home with a sick kid, or take them to the doctor every now and again?  Why should mom be the one to always take on that responsibility?  It doesn’t have to be that way.  And if it is, it’s more than likely because she is insisting on it, because “kids need their Moms,” and she needs a little more fuel to justify her assertion that her ex is a Disneyland Dad.

Problem #3:  Sometimes Dad’s are too far away to even get that every other weekend, and being there for doctor visits, etc., is a practical impossibility.  Why do you suppose that is? Sometimes it’s because Mom decided to relocate.  There are legitimate reasons for her to relocate, for sure, but if you’ve got a Mom who’s all about moaning about her “absentee” father of an ex, or goes on and on about how he’s just a Disneyland Dad, or a deadbeat who doesn’t have to do the “hard stuff in parenting,” chances are she lives far away from Dad specifically to keep the kids away from him.  Again, when he DOES have a chance to be with his kids, it only makes sense that he’d want to do fun things with them, and make those memories that Mom has prevented him from making on a day to day basis.

So next time you hear some Poor Single Mommy whining about her ex being a Disneyland Dad, who never has to do the Hard Parenting, consider that it’s highly likely that what she really is is a Martyr Mommy–and is doing her damndest to make her ex looks like a jerk not only to the rest of the world, but to her kids.  Which constitutes child abuse.

Maybe consider that before making a judgment about that Dad you know nothing about.

**Side note:  I was gonna post some quippy memes on here, but DAMN, PEOPLE!  There is some super cruel stuff out there!  Depressed me just looking for a pic.  Maybe if we could all just grow the hell up and act like decent parents blog posts like this wouldn’t be necessary!

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