Child custody consists of both the physical and legal duties of parenting. The court determines custody based on both factors, in addition to if one parent should have sole custody of his or her children or both parents should have joint custody of their children. The common belief is that it is in the child’s best interest to maintain regular contact with both parents after a divorce or legal separation. However, courts often award sole physical custody to one parent while permitting the other considerable visitation rights in addition to legal custody.
Whether you’re the father of a child who needs to get custody over the mother or you’re simply trying to ensure your future involvement in your child’s life, it’s important to know actions fathers can take to gain and maintain custody of his children. This article can help you arm yourself against losing custody or failing to achieve it. By knowing what the court looks for when awarding custody and what rights you are entitled to, you can make sure to prioritize your child’s best interests and stay involved in their life for years to come.
What Factors Does a Court Look for When Awarding Custody?
In most circumstances, a court will consider one main question when determining a custody case: What is in your child’s best interest?
The court will take a look at every aspect of your and your ex’s life to determine the best custody arrangements. While a secure, loving home is a top priority, other factors can influence the court’s decision, including each parent’s physical and psychological wellbeing, their capacity to look after the child’s fundamental necessities, and their lifestyle. In fact, as a father, determining custody involves your current lifestyle choices just as much as your potential to be a caregiver to your child.
Some common issues that the court will take into consideration include:
- A parent’s economical and physical capacity to give a child the necessities, such as food, medical treatment, shelter, and clothing
- A parent’s physical and psychological medical history
- The child’s age, gender, and physical and psychological medical history
- A parent’s occupation and habits, consisting of things such as extreme drinking or smoking
- The choice of the child if he or she is of a specific age, typically twelve years old
- The parent-child emotional bond
- Both parents’ wishes
- Each parent’s willingness to sustain the child’s relationship with the other parent
- The level of adjustment required of the child if compelled to relocate to a new school, city, or state
- The quality of life the child benefits from in his or her present circumstances
- Whether either parent has brought fabricated or malevolent charges of child abuse on the other parent
Upon investigating all issues, if they cannot determine what is in the child’s best interest, courts must determine which parent would most likely offer the child a secure home. This can differ depending on the age of the child. If the child is young, custody might be given to the primary caregiver. However, if he or she is older, custody might be given to the parent who is better able to offer the child access to education, friends, and social development.
How Can a Father Win Custody of His Child?
While it is a common misconception that mothers always win custody of their children, the cases vary depending upon specific circumstances. If you’re a father looking to gain custody of your children, your path might be difficult, but it is certainly not impossible. By taking the proper steps and optimizing your lifestyle to provide the best care possible, you can win custody of your child.
Your steps may include:
- Attempt to Discuss. Prior to going to court for an extensive and costly custody battle, you will wish to think about talking with the child’s mother and attempting to discuss a parenting agreement or plan, also called a custody judgment in a few states. By reaching an agreement – which should consist of custody arrangements, visitation, decision-making, and other issues – both parents can avoid the costs, annoyances, and emotional pressure that going to court can cause. An agreement can also aid in creating a co-parenting atmosphere for the child or children to flourish in. A parenting agreement is always the ultimate objective of every custody battle, and courts usually require one prior to ending the custody matters of a family law case.
- Be There. Father’s rights attorneys often suggest turning into a “helicopter” parent. As a father, you should be there for your child or children abundantly, picking them up regularly from school or daycare, going to every school or parent/teacher conference, attending doctor visits, taking them to sports games, and so forth. The concept is to make the other people also involved in the child’s life – teachers, caregivers, coaches, and physicians – mindful that you, the child’s father,are there and involved. By spending plenty of time with your child, the court sees that you are an important individual in the life of the child, in addition to proving that you are willing to make whatever sacrifices are needed to be an involved parent.
- Utilize Earning Clout. Having a steady job and income is integral to providing your child the care they need, so fathers who are earning income have an advantage when it comes to getting custody. You should ensure it is obvious to the court that you do make enough income to support your child, especially if you have more money coming in than the child’s mother. While flexing an economical arm might feel bad, it can certainly add to your case for custody of your children, since you can prove you will make an optimal resource provider. Consider, for instance, one parent who makes just enough to pay for a small apartment and depends on government aid for things, such as insurance or even food stamps. Compare that with a parent who can effortlessly pay for a secure home, proper clothes for the child, and a secure neighborhood with decent schools. Which parent do you believe a family court judge will think can offer a better living standard for the child?
- Obtain Good References. Besides creating economic stability, you will also wish to prove that you are a good father from others’ viewpoints. You should solicit your friends, relatives, and colleagues to write affidavits about you. The more specific, the better. These letters should clarify your behavior as a father and outline the positive aspects of your parenting skills. If you are involved at all in a church or volunteering, having affidavits from those colleagues will be an additional advantage to the case. If a judge has the decision between which parent to trust, and one parent only has his or her word while the other parent has a list of affidavits and possible witnesses varying from colleagues, teachers, coaches, neighbors, or church leaders, the judge will obviously make the more credible decision.
- Remarrying is Positive. Of course, you shouldn’t remarry as a bid to win your custody case. However, you don’t have to feel that remarrying will harm your case. Although you and the child’s mother might be divorced or have never been married, the courts can consider a new wife in your life to be a mother figure. In fact, having both parents in the home is normally considered in the child’s best interest. If you remarry someone who is willing to assist in taking care of the child and is committed to improving every component of the child’s life, it can certainly aid your custody case as the child’s father.
What an Unmarried Father Must Know About Child Custody and Visitation
Biological parents who are either divorced or broken-up have the right to pursue custody and/or visitation for the children they share. The court will always decide in support of what is in the child’s best interest when biological parents argue over custody or visitation. In most cases, unless there is proof that states otherwise, officials will always lean toward the notion that considerable involvement of both parents is in the child’s best interest. This is referred to as the best-interests-of-the-child criterion, and it depends on several issues to decide what the court thinks is best for the child.
The Father Must Prove He is the Biological Father
If you are an unmarried father, one of the initial steps that you must take to be given custody or visitation is to prove the paternity of the children involved. This can be accomplished in one of two ways:
- Both parents filing joint recognition of paternity when the child is born
- Adhering to a legal process that consists of performing a DNA test on the child and the man in question
When these processes have occurred and biological paternity has been proven, you can seek joint or full custody and any visitation rights. In most states, the legal system makes it possible for fathers to file paternity acknowledgment and custody/visitation rights simultaneously. This would be honored in a court order declaring the biological parents’ names.
What Rights is a Father Entitled to Regarding Custody and Visitation?
Many states have now clearly denied the tender-years rule, which declared that a child is best left with the mother for the initial four years of his or her life. Most states have also written their laws with precise wording that maintains that a father has similar rights as a mother. By doing this, U.S. family law judges have started to make fathers the main caretakers of their children over mothers in several cases. Even if the mother maintains physical custody of the child, a judge can award the father rights to considerable amounts of visitation besides the rights to go to and obtain school information, schedule appointments with doctors, and most other choices in their child’s life.
In custody cases, a father has as much right to have contact with his child as a mother does. Whether you and your ex share joint custody or one of you has sole custody, the other parent should be in his or her child’s life if he or she wishes to be. As a father yourself, simply ensure you follow the law properly and try to work with your ex and the court to obtain custody of your child. Maintain conscious lifestyle decisions and work toward being a great father who can take care of his children and provide for his family. No matter what, consider your child’s best interests.