It’s perfectly natural for fathers to feel incredibly daunted with the prospect of fighting for child custody. Fathers in the United States have historically been overlooked and undervalued in family court hearings, ultimately due to long-standing gender roles of mothers and caregivers and fathers as breadwinners. Today, we know that fathers are just as capable as mothers when it comes to raising children, and a good father who is fully capable of caring for his children has every right to fight for custody in divorce.
Fathers still face an uphill battle when it comes to contesting child custody, as long-standing beliefs can still hold sway over some family court judges. Ultimately, one of the best things a father can do in this situation is to reach out to an experienced family law attorney for assistance in preparing their custody case.
Follow All Court Orders
The first thing every father facing a child custody dispute must remember is to always follow court orders, even if they seem one-sided or unfair. It’s not uncommon for judges to issue temporary orders in divorce cases, sometimes requiring married parents to make separate living arrangements and awarding temporary physical custody to one parent over the other until a custody decision is reached. In most cases like this, mothers easily secure temporary physical custody.
If your children’s mother receives temporary custody during divorce proceedings, the judge will likely order you to pay child support. Be sure to follow all of the rules set forth in this temporary order, even if you disagree with them. Failure to meet your obligations can significantly hurt your ability to argue for custody later.
Continue Being a Good Dad
The most important factor in any custody battle is your relationship with your child. Unfortunately, many parents allow their negative feelings toward their coparent to influence their relationship with their child. This is both unfair to the child and ultimately destructive for your relationship as parent and child. Be sure to follow any standing court orders and make every effort to communicate with your child and spend time with them at every opportunity.
The stronger your bond with your child, the better your chances will be of securing custody in your forthcoming divorce proceedings. On the other hand, using your children as leverage against your ex-wife will eventually come to light. Once your child realizes this, it will severely damage your relationship with them.
Keep Detailed Records
When you enter a child custody determination, you should expect the court to carefully examine every aspect of your life, from where you work and how much money you earn to how you spend your time and how close you live to your relatives. You should also expect a complete audit of your finances, including how much you spend taking care of your kids.
Keeping detailed records is one of the best ways to support your position in a custody dispute. Your records can help you prove paternity, your active involvement in your children’s lives, your ability to provide for their basic and special needs, and your fitness as a competent, reliable parent.
Be Proactive in Attending Major Events
Every family has different social, religious, and educational events occasionally, and you should make every effort to attend these events and support your child. A few common examples include sports games, spelling bees, parent-teacher conferences, and birthday parties. Keep communication open with your coparent so you can be sure to schedule these events and demonstrate your active participation in your child’s life. This will ultimately support your case for custody.
Create Space for Your Kids
No matter what type of temporary custody or visitation order is in place during your divorce, your goal is to eventually obtain custody on some level. You need to show the court you are ready and able to accommodate your children. In almost every divorce, one spouse moves out as soon as they decide to end their marriage. It is extremely rare for a divorcing couple to remain in cohabitation during divorce proceedings. Doing so could be inherently unhealthy for divorce proceedings.
If you were the one to move out, make sure your new living arrangements provide enough room for your children. It is understandable for divorcing parents to face financial strains when they begin divorce proceedings, and it can be difficult to find spacious living arrangements in a short time. Even if you live in a small apartment for now, showing the court you have a suitable space for your children to spend time with you will help your child custody determination.
Develop a Parenting Plan
It’s vital to establish your capability as a single parent as you approach your child custody determination. This means creating a parenting plan that accounts for your child’s needs, including their education, spiritual upbringing, medical needs, and everyday schedules. Your attorney can potentially connect you with valuable resources like budget advisors and financial counselors who can help you develop a more robust parenting plan, further strengthening your position in a custody dispute.
Encourage Alternative Dispute Resolution
Ultimately, litigation is the more difficult road in any divorce case. A lengthy court battle means less time to spend with your children and more money spent on legal fees. If your coparent is agreeable to the idea of alternative dispute resolution such as arbitration or divorce mediation, it’s worth exploring these options. Mediation is particularly effective when it comes to child custody disputes as it provides a relaxed, low-pressure, private atmosphere in which the divorcing parents can negotiate custody.
Secure Legal Counsel as Soon as Possible
Any child custody battle has the potential to evolve into a very complex litigation battle. You need reliable legal representation you can trust if your situation has reached this tipping point. The sooner you connect with an attorney, the sooner you can start building the strongest custody case possible and making necessary changes in your life to accommodate your children’s needs. If you are unsure of how to approach your custody battle or need specific answers to unique questions in your current situation, reach out to an attorney as soon as possible.