Father's Rights in West Virginia

By Alice Morello

father and daughter image by Maya Kruchancova from Fotolia.com

When you and the woman with whom you have children live apart, you may face difficulties when it comes to the relationship with your children. As a father, however, you have certain rights regarding visiting or making decisions for your children. West Virginia has specific laws on these issues. Even if state law does not specify in depth the parental responsibilities of a father, some main duties are clearly stated.

Parental Responsibilities

The main duties parents have concern the physical and mental welfare of their children. Parents need to supply a home for their children, live and communicate constantly with them, choose their school, consent to their medical treatment and represent them in all legal matters. These are duties both parents need to take care of when they share parental responsibility.

Obtaining Parental Responsibility

When a child is born during a marriage, the father has automatic parental responsibility. If a child is born outside of marriage, the father has several ways to obtain parental responsibility. His options are to marry the child's mother, enter in voluntary joint responsibility with her or request parental responsibility from a tribunal. A tribunal grants or denies parental responsibility taking into account factors such as the father's motivation for the request, his level of attachment to the child and his level of commitment he has proven to the child over the years.

Paternity Leave

Paternity leave is a father’s right in West Virginia. If you are employed and your partner just gave birth, you are allowed one or two weeks of paternity leave. You also may be eligible for such a leave if you decide to adopt a child. The statutory paternity pay to which you are entitled should be the same as the statutory maternity pay. An employer needs to have written notice about an employee's intention of obtaining paternity leave.

Read More: How to Prove Paternity When the Father Is Deceased

Custody Matters

When a couple decides to separate, the father usually is not granted full custody rights of a child. Most couples choose mediation to determine child custody. You can choose to have joint custody of the child or to get a right of visitation on a determined schedule. In the majority of cases, the mother is granted custody and the father needs to pay child support. Many factors are taken into account when calculating child support payment, such as the financial state of the family and the home-care situation.

Visitation Rights

Child custody and visitation rights are not the same. The parent who has legal custody is the one who decides the way in which the child should be raised. Visitation rights, on the other hand, determine how the child spends his time. The father should have all the visitation details in writing from the beginning to avoid problems. The details are settled voluntarily or in court and may include, for example, restrictions about the time and length of visits. Failing to adhere to visitation rights might harm the psychological development of your child.