Many dads still hold onto old-fashioned beliefs about child custody. These beliefs generally involve the myth that preference is given to mothers, and that dads will always face an uphill battle when seeking a custody arrangement. To be clear, there are situations in which the mother is given a slight preference in custody. However, the guiding principle in all custody cases is to do what is in the best interest of the child. The law clearly states that both parents should have frequent contact with their children. So how does a dad go about getting custody? This page provides a roadmap.
Ultimately, a decision for or against a dad can come down to how his case for child custody is presented in court. If you’re a Dad who’s involved in a custody dispute or hearing, you should know that having the right lawyer could make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
Child Custody Laws for Dads
We outlined in our father’s rights post last week what California’s family law says regarding custody for dads. As a quick recap, when it comes to issues of child custody, the court will consider the health, safety and welfare of the child, as well as any history of abuse by either parent toward the child, a sibling, or the other parent. Other factors include any history of substance or alcohol abuse.
But as a matter of public policy, the law clearly seeks to ensure both parents maintain contact with the child. These sections of the code, as well as others, provide strong rights for both parents — not just moms. There are plenty of cases where it is in the best interest of the child or children to spend more time with the father — particularly if the mother struggles with child abuse or substance abuse.
Whatever type of custody issue the dad faces, the way his case is presented before the court will make a big difference in the type of custody or visitation order that is made. The law provides opportunities for fathers, even in seemingly hopeless situations, and he shouldn’t attempt to engage in a child custody dispute without a lawyer. If you believe you are the father of a child and the mother denies it, you should visit our main paternity page to learn about the process.
Common Issues Dads Face When Seeking a Visitation or Custody Order
Although the law seeks to provide frequent and continuing contract between both parents and their children, there are certain cases in which a father might struggle to get the maximum amount of time possible.
Such cases perhaps involve a father whose hectic work schedule makes more time with the kids difficult. While he’s sacrificed and worked hard to provide for his family, he might still face an uphill battle when requesting a favorable visitation order, particularly if the mother stayed at home with the children since they were born.
It’s important in cases like this that a father (and his lawyer) seek a visitation schedule that maximizes quality time with the children. This could mean seeking a flexible visitation schedule with make-up dates if necessary. For instance, if the father is sent on a sudden business trip, the order might include a backup plan in which the time lost due to the trip could be made up at a later date.
Sometimes fathers seek a generous custody order after a marriage or relationship in which they didn’t take an active interest in the child’s life. They then find they have difficulties when seeking a 50/50 custody arrangement. If this situation is something you as a father have experienced, don’t lose hope. There are steps you can take to obtain a more favorable visitation order with time.
If you’re a dad, you may have made one of these four common mistakes.
Seek To Spend Quality Time With Your Kids
If you are a dad who is struggling to gain more time with your children, the important thing to do is to picture the kind of quality time you want to spend with them. Then, you have to act in accordance with that aspiration. This means that when you have the opportunity to spend time with your children, you should seek to enhance the quality of the experience. In other words, don’t hand them off to your parents, or another babysitter. The child or children should look forward to spending time at your place.
When it comes to seeking increased time with your children, it is important to follow through on your promises and perform parental duties consistently. If at some point the mother refuses to allow you to spend additional time with the children, it’s important that you don’t become angry, argumentative or combative.
If possible ask for additional time with the children in a reasonable tone. If this doesn’t work, it’s important that you don’t just give up. If at a later date the court reconsiders a custody arrangement it will consider how active a role you played in the children’s life to that point. If you gave up, the court will take this into consideration.
If you believe you can handle additional time, it might be necessary to bring this to the court’s attention. If the mother is being difficult in granting you additional time with your child or children, this should also be brought to the court’s attention. A good lawyer can help you do this.
How To Deal With an Uncooperative Mother
There are a number of different situations in which an uncooperative former spouse or girlfriend can make life difficult for a father. This is not a problem that’s specific to mothers, or women, it’s just how things happen in certain post-separation relationships. It’s also one of the more difficult situations a dad seeking increased custody of his child will face.
In worst-case scenarios, a difficult former wife or girlfriend might level false accusations of abuse at the dad in an attempt to alienate him from his children and limit his visitation or custody. In less extreme examples, the mother might use psychologically abusive tactics and deception in an attempt to drive a wedge between the children and their father.
It’s important that if you are seeking more time with your children in a post-separation situation like this, that you contact a law office to help you explore your options and exercise your rights as a father.
If such alienating tactics used by a former wife or girlfriend aren’t challenged in court, they can have permanent effects on a father’s relationship with his children.
In court, a father has a number of legal options he can pursue to deal with a difficult former wife or girlfriend. These include requesting a forensic psychological evaluation of the mother, challenging the mother’s allegations using the legal discovery process, or requesting a formal child custody investigation.
If on the other hand, the mother of your children throws up roadblocks in order to limit visitation with your children and you do nothing about it, the court may take this into consideration at a later date should you pursue sole or joint custody, and your chances of achieving either will be diminished.
Additionally, as a child gets older (the age of 14 in many cases) their wishes regarding custody can be considered by the court. If the child has spent many formative years being alienated from his/her dad, he or she might be less inclined to express a desire to spend time with the father if asked about it in court.
Overview of the Types of Custody
When it comes to custody, there are two different types: legal and physical. We’ve written an entire page regarding the types of child custody and highly recommend that you review it. In short recap, legal custody involves making decisions about the child’s health and welfare (what schools to attend, what doctors to see, what sports to play). Physical custody includes the day-to-day decisions about a child’s schedule (bed time, hygiene, homework, pick up and drop off from school).
Either of these types of custody can be shared by both parents (joint custody) or awarded to only one parent (also known as sole custody). How custody is ordered depends in large part on what the court believes to be the child’s best interest.
Custody, post separation and divorce cases are never pleasant — they require fortitude on the part of the participants. Too often a dad incorrectly assumes that he has limited custody rights in comparison to the mother. Rather than challenging this assumption with the help of a good family lawyer, he might give up thinking all hope is lost. Doing so only ensures further difficulty when it comes to custody and visitation hearings.
Because family law is complex, subtle and at times highly emotional, it is always recommended that anyone seeking custody of their child do so with the assistance of a good attorney.