Children & Custody
Maintaining a healthy relationship with your children should be a father’s top priority throughout a divorce. From building a case to co-parenting, Children & Custody offers tips and info on many of the common issues that men face during custody negotiations.
Developing a custody arrangement that will be implemented following a divorce is one of the most important — and often contentious — issues fathers face, which is why it is crucial to understand how courts determine custody.
The Children & Custody section covers many of the factors that will go into a court’s custody determination, such as why fathers are at a disadvantage, building a custody case, the “best interests of the children” standard and more.
An Uphill Battle
While strides have been made in recent years to level out the playing field when it comes to custody for fathers, women still overwhelmingly receive primary physical custody despite a drastic change in family structure over the past several decades. When many of the custody laws and standards were originally implemented, the majority of mothers stayed home to care for children while fathers were primary wage earners. That is simply not the case any longer.
In the modern day and age, fathers typically play a much larger role raising their children than in the past. However, they are often pigeonholed as the “worker” while the mother is viewed as the caregiver. This means fathers must create a compelling argument for the court that they deserve to continue having an active role in their children’s lives, whereas mothers are often given the benefit of the doubt.
Building Your Case
When building a custody case, fathers need to clearly demonstrate they are an extremely involved parent. This is where knowing the details of your child’s life is extremely important and is also a reason you should strive to remain in the marital home throughout the process — losing out on daily interactions with your kids is very detrimental toward proving to the court that you are actively involved in caring for your children.
Being able to prove that you regularly read them stories before bed, drop them off and pick them up from school, take them to extra-curricular activities or take them shopping for essentials will go a long way toward proving you deserve substantial parenting time. However, be aware that even great fathers who have built a solid case are unfortunately not guaranteed to be granted equal or primary custody following a divorce.
Essentially the “Golden Rule” that you will hear when it comes to custody determinations, the majority of states will use some form of “Best Interests Of The Children” analysis when deciding the custody arrangement. Each state will have their own set of factors to consider, but common factors include the parental duties performed on behalf of the child, a willingness to encourage a relationship with the other parent and whether there is any history of substance abuse.
In addition to this analysis, some states will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem, who is a third-party attorney or specialist who is tasked with evaluating the suitability of both parents. The GAL will report their findings to the court, and a judge will often base their custody determination off of the GAL’s testimony. It may feel condescending to have to prove to a stranger that you are a fit parent, but it is crucial that you present a good image to the Guardian Ad Litem if one is assigned to your case.
Since fathers are more likely to be designated as the non-custodial parent, there is a strong likelihood that they will have a child support obligation. Each state will have a specific formula that is used to determine the amount, which typically takes into consideration income and the number of overnights per their visitation arrangement that will remain in effect until the child is emancipated.
If you have a child support obligation, it is important to stay up to date on your payments to avoid being found in contempt of court or incurring additional fees in the form of arrears. If you are unable to keep up with your payments, you should petition to have the amount lowered, which usually requires proving there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.
During and after the divorce, it is important to keep your children’s well-being as the No. 1 priority. While you and your ex may no longer get along, it is important to develop a new co-parenting relationship that helps minimize the negative impact of the divorce on your kids.
Even though you may harbor resentment or feel you got the short end of the stick during the divorce proceedings, you need to keep your kids out of the conflict. This requires mutual effort and cooperation between you and your ex to find a way to coordinate parenting efforts so the transition to your new family structure is as seamless as possible. Obviously, this is often easier said than done.