There is a perception among the public that fathers cannot be awarded meaningful time, shared parenting or custody of their children. Despite the fact that equality based upon gender is enshrined into every level of our legal codes as well as the Constitutions of both the United States and Ohio, the stereotype of the “weekend” dad continues to exist.
Ohio Law treats fathers who are divorcing the other parent of their children very differently than it does fathers who were never married to the mother of the their children. R.C. 3109.03 states that parents shall “stand upon an equality as to the parental rights and responsibilities for the care of their children.” However 3109.03 applies only to “[w]hen husband and wife are living separate and apart from each other, or are divorced[.]” R.C. 3109.042(A) governs the initial custody of children born to an unmarried mother. Under this statute “[a]n unmarried female who gives birth to a child is the sole residential parent and legal custodian of the child until a court of competent jurisdiction issues an order designating another person as the residential parent and legal custodian.” While R.C. 3109.042(A) includes identical language about mother and father “standing upon equality,” for purposes of determinations regarding custody, there are several reasons why a father of a child may face obstacles to obtaining custody, shared parenting or meaningful parenting time with their child when he is not married to the child’s mother.
If you are a father who is not married to his child’s mother, it is very important that you seek legal counsel if you are seeking parenting time, shared parenting or custody of your child. Contact my office today for a consultation.