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Fathers are often overlooked in our society. It’s sad, but true. Legally speaking, mothers are essentially automatically granted custody of a child unless that child is the product of a marriage. It is up to a father of an out-of-wedlock child to establish paternity and fight for visitation or custody. Even fathers who have children born during the course of a marriage feel like they have an uphill fight when it comes to custody and visitation matters in divorce proceedings.

This is unfair to fathers, but it can also be harmful to their children. This is because a father’s importance is undisputable. To start, children who have a relationship with their father are less likely to engage in risky behavior that can result in poor school performance and even criminality. Children who have an active father in their life are typically less likely to develop psychological problems, and they are more likely to develop stable relationships. These children also tend to develop higher IQ scores and secure higher paying jobs further down the road.

However, to obtain the full effects of a father’s presence, that father needs to be active in the child’s life. This may sound easy enough, but it can be challenging when a child’s mother seeks to limit interaction between father and child. And, without legal action, a mother may be within her legal rights to withhold contact.

As frustrating as that may be for fathers, they shouldn’t be deterred from pursuing a relationship with their children. Instead, they should arm themselves with knowledge of the law and arguments to support why a particular visitation or custody arrangement supports the child’s best interests. This can sometimes be a confrontational issue, which is why it might be beneficial for these fathers to surround themselves with those who support them, including a strong legal advocate.