Why is it so hard for fathers to get custody?
For divorcing parents who both want custody of a child, it is often more difficult for the father to get custody than for the mother. There are many different reasons that factor into this, despite the fact that courts may state they “do not discriminate” between fathers and mothers in hearing custody cases. For fathers seeking custody, what this can mean is working twice as hard try to level the playing field.
“Act as if” You Already Have Custody
One of the biggest factors that will influence how open a court is to the father’s case is evidence of your pre-existing bond with your child. Another huge influencer is your readiness to bring your child into your home. For fathers who may have just moved out of the family home, this means selecting and readying the new home as one which is suitable for raising a child.
Act as if you already have custody. Imagine your child is already living with you in your home. Evaluate your home for safety issues. Stock the fridge with foods your child likes. Take a look at any changes that may be required if your child lives with you, including the commute to day care/school and adjusting your work schedule accordingly. Start planning now for how you will handle those changes. This will do a lot to convince a judge you are serious about taking custody of your child.
Stay in your child’s life as much as you can (court permitting). Continue to pay child support promptly (even early!). Do your best to maintain a cordial relationship with your soon-to-be-ex. Remember important dates and show up for special events, games, performances and school conferences. Talk with your child (age permitting) and help them begin to prepare for and adjust to the changes that are coming.
Keep Accurate Records of EVERYTHING
Even as you are building your case for why you should seek custody, you must also remember the court runs on records and proof, not hearsay and stories. Do your best to record everything. Take photos of your time with your child. Save text messages and voice mails, letters and postcards. Keep a visitation log of every visit you and your child have, including the time/date/length of visit as well as where you go and what happens during the visit. Your child will likely be questioned as well during the court proceedings, and hearing of your continual involvement from your child will help the judge view your custody application more favorably.
Consider Asking for Joint Custody
While there may be circumstances indicating sole custody is the path truly in your child’s best interest, asking for joint custody at first may help to “soften up” the court’s position towards a father having sole custody.
It will show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure your child has that all-important relationship with both parents if at all possible. It will indicate your willingness to work amicably with your spouse towards this goal (whether or not she demonstrates the same willingness towards you). It will indicate awareness that there may be times you won’t be able to be there in every way your child needs. While joint custody may not be your “ideal outcome,” it can definitely present a workable first step towards seeking full custody in situations where extreme court resistance to a father’s custody exists.
Hire an Attorney Skilled in Father Custody Matters
While all attorneys have to take certain steps to practice law (graduate law school, pass the bar, et al), this does not mean all attorneys are equally skilled at winning custody cases. Some attorneys may spend their entire career and never once handle a custody case, while others spend their days in and out of the court room totally focused on custody issues. So when you hire an attorney, you want to select one skilled in your specific type of case – a father seeking custody of his child.
As a father himself, Attorney Bruce Anderson understands the stakes. With the help of an experienced family lawyer, you can steer the court toward a favorable outcome.