STAY IN THE HOUSE! I cannot stress enough how important this is, especially if you are attempting to get equal parenting time (or more).
While you and your spouse remain in the same home, you both have 100 percent access to your children. The longer you have the unlimited access, the less likely the court is to significantly restrict the parenting time post-divorce.
If you move out prior to having either a written agreement or signed order from the court as to parenting time, you are now at the mercy of the other parent. If your spouse were to withhold the children for any reason, that behavior can quickly become the “new norm” the court has to consider when making parenting time orders.
The No. 1 tip I can give fathers is to be involved in their children’s lives.
A judge is not likely to give extended custody time to a parent who does not know the basic details of caring for their child, such as the names of their teachers and doctors, the activities they participate in, and even their bedtime routine.
By taking the initiative to be involved with your child’s upbringing and learning the information for childcare tasks that may have been taken care of by the other parent when you were still married, you can show the court that you are an equally responsible and caring parent.
Set yourself up for success by enhancing your role as a caregiver.
Throughout the marriage, if you have not played an active role in the care of the children, now is the time to set yourself up for success by enhancing your role as the caregiver. This means you will need to work hard to achieve your goals.
Instead of focusing on what mom has done wrong, show everyone what you can do right. Take your children to school. Take your children to practice. Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences. Cook dinner. Help with homework.
Don’t forget to document, document and document some more. Buy a calendar and for each day of the month, document whether you had your children, what activities you did that day, what you had to eat, etc.
Even the most amicable divorce will have some negative impact on the children, and high conflict divorce cases will upset the entire universe of the children involved even when parents think they are insulating them from the conflict.
Dads who want to prevail in a contentious custody battle put the best interests of the children above their own needs. Parents have a natural tendency to put their children first, but this natural instinct is often one of the first things to go when intense emotions begin clouding a parent’s judgment.
However, if a dad is aware of this tendency and takes action to put the children in the forefront of his mind and take the high road, this may mean he prevails in a high-conflict custody battle — particularly if mom is not reigning in her emotions and is acting out.
At the very least, a father who puts his children first in the divorce process will be fighting on a level playing field, and he can potentially overcome unconscious biases the judge may have for the mother.
The first tip that I give to fathers seeking a fair custody agreement is not to panic. I understand that the legal process is a scary and unfamiliar one, but when fathers panic, they make poor decisions.
Perhaps, out of fear, a father agrees to a custody arrangement that is far less than he would have received in court. Or maybe panic about the outcome of his case prompts him to do something irrational.
Maybe he says or does things that will hurt his chances of getting the custody arrangement he wants, such as sending threatening text messages to the child’s mother or moving out of the house. These actions may skew how the court views him.
Therefore, I recommend speaking to your attorney and getting the facts on your case, which will help alleviate the feelings of panic. Then you can develop a strategy for getting the custody agreement that you want and deserve.
The best tip to get a fair custody arrangement is to not give up your fight. If you are an active and involved father, you need to make an effort to stay as big of a part of your children’s lives during the pendency of your divorce.
If you do not live with your children during the divorce, you need to schedule days and times to see your children so you maintain a strong relationship.
Do not stop seeing your children or take a break because you feel the relationship between you and your wife is difficult — it’s going to take time for your whole family to get adjusted to this new way of family life, but you will all adjust and resume a new normal.
My No. 1 piece of advice for dad’s going through a divorce and looking for a fair custody arrangement would be to “step up.”
Too often, I hear from opposing parties and opposing counsel that my client wasn’t very interested in the kids during the marriage or they let mom take care of most things with the kids, so why is my client so interested now in getting equal placement?
Sometimes these accusations are completely untrue, but more often than not, there is some truth to the fact that even in today’s world, when it comes to child rearing and attending to the day to day needs of a child — making doctor’s appointments, packing lunches, communicating with the school – mom has done more.
Not every parent is a 50-percent parent, and that’s okay – fair does not always mean equal, and remember, the judge assigned to your case is going to be far more concerned with what is fair to your kids than what you think is fair to you.
Don’t stop what you’re already doing. Keep doing the homework, going to the track meets, call your kid when she’s not with you.
If you’re an involved parent, the court will let you still be an involved parent. Gone are the days that the mother wins full custody simply because she’s mom.