Fathers Have Rights in North Carolina

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

The law recognizes that the parent-child relationship is a critical one and that it is generally in children’s best interest to have a continued, bonded relationship with both of their parents. It is a simple fact that in most situations children need fathers, and they thrive emotionally, socially, and academically when they are able to have healthy, consistent relationships. Therefore, if you are a father of a child in North Carolina, it is important to understand your parental rights and how to exercise them.


In order to have parental rights, you have to be legally recognized as a child’s father. These include important rights like custody, visitation, and decision-making. If you were married to the mother of the child at the time of the child’s conception or birth, the law presumes that you are the father of the child. This is true even if you and the mother were separated at the time of conception or birth, as long as you were still legally married. A presumed father automatically has legal rights and duties as a parent to the child.

If you were not married to the child’s mother when the child is born, then there are steps that must be taken to establish your legal paternity of the child. One method is voluntary on the part of the mother and father, who can execute an “Affidavit of Parentage”, in which both parents swear who the father is. This acknowledgement is legally binding and establishes the child’s father with the State.

If the child’s mother is in unsure, or if you are not on amicable terms with the mother, it may be necessary to take legal action to establish your paternity of the child. This can include DNA testing to establish whether you are the father of the child.

A Legal Right to Custody and Visitation

It is true that mothers are more commonly given sole custody of children, while fathers are provided visitation. This has led many people to believe that women have a legal preference over men when it comes to child custody cases. This is not the law in North Carolina. In fact, the law has no assumption that a child should be placed with a mother over a father. Instead, the focus of courts when deciding custody is a child’s best interest.

In addition, when it comes to parental visitation, courts operate under a presumption that ample visitation and a continued relationship with each parent is in the child’s best interest. The most common situation in which a court will limit or deny visitation is if there is evidence of parental unfitness. This may include abuse, neglect, domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance abuse, or some type of criminal conduct.

A Right to Child Support

Contrary to commonly held beliefs, fathers can get child support too. Child support is not about gender. Generally, whichever parent is the primary custodian of the minor child is the one who can receive child support, regardless of the parent’s gender. This is because North Carolina courts determine child support on an “income shares” model that considers factors such as the income of each parent, who pays for the minor child’s health insurance, and who has physical custody of the child the majority of the time. In summary, if a father has sole or primary physical custody of the child, then he is entitled to receive child support.

New Direction Family Law

If you are a father, you have parental rights. With strong legal representation, you do not have to be intimidated by the courts. Contact New Direction Family Law if you want to seek custody or modify an existing agreement or order. We understand how important your children are to you and will fight for your rights. We strive to provide our clients with smart, effective legal representation and counsel. Call New Direction Family Law today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment, or contact us at our website.