Congratulations! You’re going to be a father. Being a father is a tremendous journey and a major responsibility. But, the decision making begins long before the child is born. It’s very important for you to know what your legal rights are as a father prior to the birth of your child.
There are three main areas of concern for an expecting father: the health of the child, the health of the mother, and adoption (if you are thinking about going that route). Keep in mind that if you and the mother are not married, she has sole and exclusive legal rights when it comes to making decisions for the child. That does not mean that you, as the father, can’t be involved to a significant degree.
One of the easiest ways for you to show that you are involved and responsible is to contribute to the cost of prenatal medical care. This will help establish paternity and legitimation, two things which are key to granting parental rights after the child is born.
Healthcare decisions are generally considered to be individual rights when it comes to the courts. So, the mother’s decisions are going to carry more weight in case there is a disagreement between parents over medical care.
As the father, one of the things you need to do early on is get consent from the mother to be involved with prenatal healthcare visits. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the major federal regulation that covers privacy. Healthcare providers cannot share any information from a medical record unless the patient signs a consent form. This is true whether you are married or not.
So, if you would like to go with the mother to doctor’s appointments, or have access to test results, or talk with the doctor about topics related to the baby’s health, you need to get that consent. Once the baby is born, if you have established paternity and are the legally recognized representative of the baby, you can have access to the baby’s medical record.
Yes, you do need to keep an eye on the health of the mother, because her health plays a major role in the health of the baby. If the mother of your child is going to appointments and taking care of herself, then you can relax.
However, if there is alcohol or drug use, you need to be very concerned. Prenatal drug or alcohol exposure can result in developmental delays, cognitive impairments, or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In addition, in many states, alcohol or drug use by the mother is considered abuse and neglect and can be reported to Social Services.
If you have cause to believe that the health of the unborn child is compromised, you definitely need to seek the advice of an attorney as well as contacting Social Services to make a complaint. If the child is born with signs of impairment, it may be grounds for a custody challenge.
In every state, in order for an adoption to go through, both of the legal parents must agree, with the exception of some other contributing circumstances that may cause consent of the father not to be necessary. So, it is essential that you establish paternity so that you have a say. This is especially important if you are not married.
If the mother of the child wants to put the child up for adoption, and you object, you are going to court. There are legal issues that will be too complex for you to address on your own in making an adoption decision before the baby is born. This is a situation that calls for an experienced attorney.
Even though the mother of the child has most of the legal decision making ability, the father of the child can still be involved and can still have their voice heard. The easiest way to make sure that this happens is to consult with an experienced, caring family attorney.
If you live in Clayton, Henry, Fayette, or Fulton counties, Family Matters Law Group stands ready to help you. At Family Matters Law Group, we specialize in helping parents make the best out of tough situations, such as custody cases or protection of rights. You can contact us via phone or our convenient online form. We look forward to talking with you about your case and your family’s needs.