If you are the father of a minor child and you are not living with the child’s mother, it is almost inevitable that you will end up a party to litigation involving issues related to your child. Whether it is an initial divorce, a paternity action, or a modification request down the road, you are probably going to be faced with some type of legal action initiated by you or by the child’s mother. To help prepare you for when that time comes, a Fort Worth father’s rights lawyer at Boyd Family Law explains the five biggest mistakes fathers make when involved in litigation.
Litigation of any kind can be intimidating for the average person. When that litigation is focused on your child, and the outcome will likely impact you for years to come, it can be downright frightening. Add to that the need to navigate a legal system with which you are undoubtedly unfamiliar and mistakes are likely to occur. As a father, try not to make the following five comm mistakes:
Failing to respond to legal documents. Human nature often causes us all to bury our heads in the proverbial sand when faced with something that makes us feel overwhelmed. Being served with legal documents involving your child is definitely something that can trigger the “ignore it and it will go away” reaction. The problem is that it won’t go away – and there could be long-lasting negative consequences if you don’t respond. The law often allows the Petitioner (the party who initiated the legal action) to request a default judgment if the Respondent fails to respond within the allotted time frame. If that happens, the child’s mother could get everything she has asked for and you may not have the opportunity to say anything at all.
Failing to seek experienced legal advice and guidance. It’s natural to turn to friends and family for advice when you have a problem; however, do not rely entirely on their advice when you are involved in litigation. You need to at least consult with an experienced – and objective – attorney who can evaluate your situation and provide you with sound legal advice.
Signing an agreement that is not in your best interest. At some point, your child’s mother and/or her attorney may present you with a proposed agreement and ask you to sign it. They may even offer to explain the highlights to you. Keep in mind that if an attorney is involved, he/she does not represent you and your best interests. An attorney can only advocate for one side. You should never sign an agreement without having your own attorney review the agreement first to ensure that your rights are protected. You may also feel pressure to sign it just so you can see your child or to avoid going to court out of fear that the outcome could be worse. Don’t sign under pressure. If the agreement is truly in your best interest, that will still be the case in a few days after you have consulted an attorney.
Confusing or not understanding the relationship between child support and other issues. All too often fathers put themselves in a less than desirable position by withholding court ordered child support as a reaction to the mother’s refusal to allow visitation (or a variety of other triggers). Child support is a separate and distinct issue that you cannot link to any other issues. Once the court orders you to pay support, failing to do so is a violation of a court order. Aside from a variety of other potential negative consequences, failing to pay your support makes you look back in the eyes of the judge. Pay your support and consult with an attorney if you feel the child’s mother is in violation of other court orders.
Giving up too soon. There was a time, not all that long ago, when fathers had very few rights in the eyes of the law. That is no longer the case. The law in the State of Texas is very clear that both parents have a right to participate in a child’s life. The law also forbids a judge from making decisions relating to conservatorship (custody) based on the parent’s sex. In other words, you have the same rights and obligations as your child’s other parent. Don’t give up just because you are the father.
If you have additional questions or concerns about litigation involving issues related to your child in Texas, contact an experienced Fort Worth father’s rights lawyer at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.