It is understandable that many divorcing fathers in the United States feel hopeless and distraught as they begin divorce proceedings. For many generations, the ongoing social stigmas facing men in the family court system have gone unchallenged. Now, many fathers across the country are fighting for their rights and challenging long-standing beliefs about the gender roles of women as more adept caregivers than men.
It’s natural for men to feel disadvantaged in family court proceedings because family courts have traditionally ruled against fathers, even in light of evidence establishing them as the more suitable parents in a divorce case. Thankfully, there is more legal advocacy on the side of fathers in the family court system. Every father should know the resources and legal options available to them as they initiate divorce proceedings and begin fighting for custody of their children.
Obtain Legal Counsel Immediately
One of the most important factors in any child custody case is time. Fathers need to be as proactive as possible when it comes to navigating their divorce cases. One of the best ways to take full advantage of the time a father has available is to seek legal representation immediately once divorce has become an unavoidable reality.
The sooner a father seeks legal counsel for divorce representation, the sooner he can begin building a solid case for custody, increasing his chances of securing the parental rights he rightfully deserves. Many fathers make the mistake of thinking that hiring an attorney wouldn’t do any good or only amount to wasted time and money. This is not true so long as the divorcing father takes time to find a reliable, experienced, and trustworthy divorce attorney to represent them.
Be Thorough in Accurate in Providing Evidence
A divorce case plays out like any other civil case; both sides may call witnesses and offer testimony, and they also have the ability to challenge evidence provided by the other side. Fathers should be as diligent as possible in securing the documentation and other materials they need to build strong custody cases. This means providing the court with detailed financial records to establish the father’s ability to manage his children’s everyday expenses. An experienced attorney can help their client gather all of the evidence they will need in their impending divorce case to ensure that there are no inaccuracies that can cause problems in the future.
Connect With Relevant Experts
An experienced divorce attorney will help a client by providing various resources that can assist in their case and the development of a parenting plan. Some of these resources may include expert witnesses who can assist in the case by providing their professional interpretations of relevant facts or by explaining complex subjects in layman’s terms.
Take time to evaluate your choices carefully when you need an attorney to assist you in a child custody determination. Ask them whether expert witness testimony would be helpful to your case. If so, ask the attorney what kind of expert witnesses they can contact to provide professional assistance to the case.
Be an Active Parent
Divorce proceedings can take quite a long time to finalize in some cases, and some divorcing parents may need to abide by temporary custody orders while their child custody determinations unfold. It is vital for fathers in this situation to be as active as possible in their children’s lives and adhere to the temporary custody arrangement as closely as possible.
Being an active parent helps the children transition to living separately with both parents on a joint custody schedule and helping them adapt in other ways. Being active during this early stage of divorce is important for cultivating strong relationships with one’s children that persist during and after divorce.
Pay Support on Time
It is not uncommon for temporary child custody and support arrangements to favor mothers, typically granting them more physical custody than fathers due to long-standing beliefs about the roles of fathers and mothers. However, more courts are recognizing the one-sided nature of the family court system and providing more flexible temporary child support and child custody arrangements to parents in the midst of child custody determinations.
Even if you believe your initial child custody order to be unfair or imbalanced, you will always have the opportunity to challenge or change it later. For now, it is best to abide by the terms of your temporary custody and support order to avoid any potential problems with your ability to argue for custody as your case unfolds.
Collect Strong References
Character references are important in many divorce cases, but they are especially valuable to fathers fighting uphill battles in their child custody determinations. Personal references from extended family members, friends, neighbors, and others who have witnessed the father interact with his children can all be incredibly helpful in any divorce case. Character references from coworkers, employers, partners, community members, and other parties can also help to establish a father’s credibility as an upstanding member of their community and capable parent to their children.
Additional Steps for Unmarried Fathers
When parents are married, the husband is the presumptive father of the wife’s children conceived and born in wedlock. While it may be necessary for some married fathers to formally establish the paternity of their children, this is even more important for unmarried fathers. An unmarried father can only assume parental responsibility at their child’s birth if the mother consents and the father is recorded on the child’s birth certificate.
Any unmarried father who wants any form of custody over their children must establish paternity. This not only ensures they have grounds to argue for custody but also ensures that any child support they may be required to pay is justifiable. It is not uncommon for unmarried fathers to have no legal grounds to argue for child custody without a paternity test but still face child support obligations.
Ultimately, fathers may be historically disenfranchised in the United States family court system, but more members of the court systems in Missouri and throughout the country are beginning to recognize that fathers are just as capable parents as mothers and have the right to fight for custody of their children. If you are a father concerned about your chances of securing child custody, speak with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible to start building your case.