Understanding Your Rights as a Father
Out of jail for two years, but my ex won’t let me see my kids. What do I do? I’m Tulsa Attorney James Wirth, and that’s the question that we received. There’s a little more to the question than that. It says, my daughter was born in 2015 and we signed the Acknowledgement of Paternity paper when, at that time when it was filed, I lived with her and her mother for six years before I went to prison.
Now that I’m out, the mother refuses to let me see or even talk to my daughter. Does this mean I have to start from the beginning with a paternity case and go from there? I need advice, it’s been almost two years since I’ve talked to my daughter. And also, it asks, does the new law apply?
The Impact of the New Law
Okay, so I’ll kind of address the end first. Talks about does the new law apply? What is the new law? All right, so in November of 2022, a new law went into effect that basically says, for a child that’s born to parents that are not married, it should be treated, the father should have the same amount of rights as if they were married. Previously, for a child that’s born outside of wedlock, dad’s got no rights whatsoever until they’re established in court.
Now, the new law that went into effect, November 1st of 2022 says you should have the same rights as dad. Practically speaking though, how do you enforce those rights if you have no documentation that you’re the father? In this case, at least we’ve got documentation in the form of a birth certificate, but not as far as what are the custody rights, what are the visitation rights or anything like that. So although it’s nice that the law says you’ve got equal rights, in practice, it doesn’t usually play out that way. So you definitely do need to get into court to get those specifically established.
Understanding the Application of the New Law
But more than just that, there’s a question of whether that law even applies to you. Generally, under statutory construction, if the law doesn’t say it has retroactive effect, then it’s usually interpreted as not having retroactive effect. Nothing in this law says it goes back, so there could be an argument that this law doesn’t apply if the kids were born prior to November 1st of 2022. I’m not aware of any case that has litigated that yet. It’s an interesting legal issue, practically speaking though, it doesn’t make a lot of difference because you still need to go into court to get your specific rights established so that they’re enforceable.
Having rights is great, but if you can’t enforce them, what are they worth? Get into court, get a court order, then it is enforceable. So since he says, do I have to start all at the beginning? Kind of, it doesn’t sound like you’ve ever been to court. So normally we would file this as a paternity action. However, because you’re on the birth certificate and the amount of time that’s gone by, you’re the father, legally speaking, unless somebody tries to rebut that. So it’s more about getting custody and visitation rights established. So we’d file it as a paternity action requesting that those rights be established, move it forward from there. Obviously, the longer you let this go on without a relationship to your daughter, the more that undermines the relationship and your case. That doesn’t mean that you’re not gonna have rights. It may mean that those rights start more slowly than they otherwise would though. So the quicker you can get going on it, the better.
Take Action Now for a Free Consultation
If you’ve got any more questions related to this, obviously you’re gonna want specific information for your circumstances, and that’s gonna require a private consult where legal advice can be given. If you want to get that scheduled with somebody in my office, you can go online to makelaweasy.com. We offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and guide you through the legal process.