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Fathers' rights issues advancing in Pennsylvania and elsewhere

Fathers' rights is a growing area of family law in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. Traditionally, issues concerning fathers' rights received little attention in a significant number of jurisdictions across the country. When parents divorced or separated, any minor children almost always ended up in the sole custody of the mother with the father was relegated to weekend visitations and a hefty child support payment. The times, however, are definitely changing.

A family law case in a northeastern state provides a glimpse into some of the issues that confront courts on a regular basis when the parents of a minor child dispute the rights of one another. Sometimes, the issues are about child custody. Other times, the main issue is the time and quality of court ordered visitations. This particular fathers' rights case actually involved how the baby would be named legally.

A state family court granted a father's request to change the last name of his baby from that of the mother to the joint name of the mother and father. The mother argued against the name change, which was requested when the baby was 17 months old, and ultimately appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. She claimed the father, who was 15 years of age when the baby was born, did not take responsibility for the child. She also asserted that the standards used by state courts to name children lacked clear definition and resulted in sexist rulings.

In upholding the fathers' rights claim, the state's Supreme Court reaffirmed that the issue was properly decided by determining the best interests of the child. That is a guideline involving children and family law issues involving children that is followed by many jurisdictions throughout the country, including Pennsylvania. In this instance, the court held that the trial court had properly exercised its broad discretion. With more frequency, fathers have successfully argued to protect their parental rights in a wide range of family law issues regarding their minor children.

Source: Concord Monitor, "NH Supreme Court sides with father in baby name-change case," Maddie Hanna, Oct. 30, 2012

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