When parents decide to separate, one of the most contentious areas of that process often involves their children. If the parents cannot reach a mutually acceptable agreement, the court will decide who receives primary (or sole) custody and who will decide.
Depending on several factors, the court may consider who the child wants to stay with. For fathers, this process may feel influenced by stereotypes—such as that male parents do not care for their children with the same quality level as female parents, for instance.
A father’s involvement in their children’s lives makes a substantial difference. Fathers have rights that protect them from unjust treatment during custody cases. To achieve the most favorable results, a custody case should be carefully and thoughtfully prepared, which is why most men enlist the assistance of an attorney.
Understanding the Legal Arena
To prepare for a custody case, fathers must understand the legal arena in which these determinations are made. Custody arrangements address the following:
- Physical – Determines in whose presence the child spends the majority of their time.
- Legal – Determines which parties may decide on the child’s behalf, such as medical choices, religion, education, etc.
Having physical and or legal custody may occur as one of the following:
- Joint – A cooperative arrangement in which parents share custody responsibilities.
- Sole – An arrangement in which one parent is awarded exclusive care responsibilities for the child.
One example: One parent is awarded sole physical custody, but both parents are awarded joint legal custody. This may occur if one parent travels extensively, making them unable to provide stability in the child’s home life.
The parents share legal custody, including important life decisions, medical care, education, and religious practices. The court will determine any visitation by the non-custodial physical parent if no agreement is reached.
Multiple combinations may be agreed upon between the parents, entered into the court, or decided by the court.
These decisions are made based on multiple legal factors that ensure the best situation for the child. In some situations, depending on the child’s age and other factors, the judge may consider the child’s preferences.
It is important to note that attempting to pressure or influence a child to choose you as the primary parent will likely result in a negative outcome.
Prioritizing the Child’s Best Interests
Courts’ primary factor to determine custody is the child’s well-being and best interests. Where will the child be safe, stable, cared for, and supported? Fathers must thoroughly demonstrate their commitment to providing a stable environment when building a custody case.
This includes earning sufficient income, creating opportunities for growth and learning, and ensuring the child’s predictable and consistent lifestyle.
By fostering a strong parent-child relationship, courts can better understand how the father positively impacts the child’s life. To determine what is in the child’s best interests, the courts will examine multiple factors, including:
Document Communication Between Father And Child
When preparing documentation for a custody case, most fathers focus on evidence of their assets: income, a home, a working vehicle, etc. Although these are critical to the process and indicate financial stability and the capacity to provide, be sure to include documentation regarding interactions with the child.
Fathers should maintain a thorough record of their involvement and interactions with the child, demonstrating they are a regularly involved element in the minor’s life.
For example, proof that the father is responsible for taking children to extracurriculars each week or is the decision maker on behalf of the minor can demonstrate that the male parent is an active contributor with experience.
Additionally, demonstrate evidence of effective and regular communication with both the co-parent and the child. Does the father maintain consistent availability should their child want or need to contact them?
Do they engage with the co-parent in a manner that focuses on what is best for the child, regardless of personal feelings? Evidence of these elements provides positive support for the custody case.
To maintain a respectful and cooperative co-parenting relationship, avoid disparaging the other parent in the child’s presence. Support their relationship with the other parent, and do not intrude while they are engaged with the other’s parenting time. Respect this space and remain flexible to how the other parent navigates the process.
Document Evidence Of A Consistent Routine
When determining custody, one of the most important elements a court will examine is a parent’s ability to provide consistency. Establishing a consistent routine can demonstrate a father’s ability to provide stability.
This includes creating a plan for how holidays and vacations will be handled and allocating tasks to each parent; perhaps one parent is solely responsible for doctor’s appointments while the other is in charge of extracurriculars.
Schedules should be made and adhered to to create minimal disruption to the child’s life and demonstrate the father’s ability to remain consistent and reliable. If circumstances change, be sure to make an alternative decision that supports the child’s best interests.
Document Active Participation in Child’s Life
Another element the courts will examine is how actively a father engages with their child’s life. School and extracurricular activities are only the beginning of the value that a father can contribute by actively participating in a child’s daily life, including the mundane.
Brush your teeth with the child, help with homework, and engage in hobbies together. Not only does this foster meaningful quality time that creates lasting memories, but it also helps a child feel supported and cared for—valuable factors for your child and, therefore, critically important to the court.
Fathers should also engage actively in decision-making and child-rearing responsibilities. A father may not see a favorable response from the court if they spend time playing with their children but are not responsible for life decisions such as education and medical care.
Seeking Professional Guidance
Building a custody case is a complex process. One of the most common misconceptions is that fathers rarely achieve favorable custody determinations or that a mother will always win if she fights for custody.
However, fathers have the right to be evaluated relatively; an attorney specializing in fathers’ rights can provide tailored advice and strategies customized for each father’s unique situation.
Building a Strong Support System
While fathers prepare for a custody hearing, most of their attention is typically on building their case, gathering documentation, and navigating court requirements.
However, fathers must remember to seek emotional support from friends, family, or support groups. A strong support network can positively impact their emotional well-being and, in turn, improve the quality of their case preparation, as well as show a support system for your child.
Fathers who care for themselves are more emotionally regulated and clear-headed when making important decisions that could affect their long-term relationship with their children.
In addition to seeking help, remember to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Not only will this improve mental well-being, but it will ensure that the father can spend quality time with the child.
Presenting a Coherent Case in Court
When the court date arrives, many fathers are nervous. This is partly why those who partner with a legal team see greater success on average—legal professionals understand how to navigate courtroom processes and present appropriate evidence or arguments.
A father must maintain a calm and respectful demeanor during proceedings. The court hearing is the judge’s only window into a father’s in-person behavior; unruly or negative behavior here can leave a poor impression.
Be sure to comply with court orders and guidelines regarding proper paperwork filing, personal behavior, and dress code within the courtroom. This shows a thorough competence that befits a responsible father.
Seek Help Building a Custody Case from an Experienced Attorney
Fathers play a valuable role in their children’s lives, serving as role models and providers. The court will be examining your role as a father in your child’s life; providing sufficient evidence of these actions can strengthen your case.
Demonstrate communication and co-parenting with the other parent and your role in making decisions for the child. Include evidence of time spent together and responsibilities unique to your role in the co-parenting arrangement.
Additionally, secure evidence of stability and the ability to provide income documents, vehicle titles, and the deed or renter’s agreement for a property. Throughout the process, remain patient, persistent, and proactive in pursuing your custody rights.
A legal team can help you to compile the necessary information and present a compelling argument in court. Contact the attorneys at SIEGELLAW to discuss your goals in a custody case and speak with legal professionals during a consultation.