Those most affected by a divorce are often children. Child custody issues are exacerbated when the child was conceived out of wedlock. Father’s rights campaigns are ever increasing in the United States, especially in light of the fact that common perception is that the courts are more sympathetic to the biological mothers in child custody issues. In Arkansas, the Office of Child Support Enforcement looks into the matter of paternity in such cases.
Recently, Levi Johnson, a young father, went to court when he claimed that the mother of his biological son, Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, took their son with her when she enrolled in school out of state. Johnson further claimed to have no knowledge of the said relocation of the mother with his son. The father even tried in vain to obtain a restraining order to prevent the mother from taking their son.
Gender roles, in general, have gone through a paradigm shift. With the shift in traditional gender roles, fathers too have evolved from the preconceived notion of family “breadwinner” to an active parent involved in their children’s lives. Since the 1980s, where the father’s custodial rights started gaining recognition, courts too have taken a pragmatic approach to child custody. In recent times, most parents prefer joint custody, rather than sole custody of either parent. In most cases, the best interest of the child supersedes gender biases.
While it remains true that the legal system has given recognition of the fathers’ rights in cases of divorce, the struggle of an unwed biological father may be tougher. In Arkansas, the parents can voluntarily acknowledge paternity, if the parents are not married to each other, by signing Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) forms. However, the signed AOP forms do not give the father automatic custodial rights. An AOP can, nonetheless, be used to enforce and establish the father’s paternity rights. There is no specific legislation dealing with unwed father’s rights. Thus, in such cases, a legal professional’s help may be useful for fathers seeking child custody.
Source: RADAR Online, “Tripp needs his father! Bristol Palin & Levi Johnson custody fight erupts as Johnson takes her to Court again in battle over son,” May 27, 2014