Every father wants to spend time with their children. They want to be their kids’ heroes. They want to be there for their first day of school, their first day at work, and their first day of university. But fathers are often at a disadvantage when it comes to primary custody or other custody issues.
Why is that? And what can they do to change it? The answers you find in this article might surprise you.
Custody is one of the most contentious issues during a divorce for a biological father. Divorced fathers have much more to lose in court when compared to mothers under traditional circumstances, like housing, jobs, and more.
Custody rights during a divorce are one of the most stressful situations that you can possibly experience. In fact, it is far more stressful than the first year of your marriage.
Just imagine the life of a child during a divorce. They are suddenly forced to move to a new home, sometimes with a new family, that hasn’t included them before. They have to deal with sudden changes that affect their home life – including rules, rules, rules.
Then they see their parents arguing all the time. They hear them fighting and screaming at one another. And they also see their father growing distant from them which creates the very first issue of custody.
Most children find all of these things very stressful. And this is why you should be concerned.
During the divorce, you are automatically reduced to a fighting parent, simply because you don’t want to give in to your ex-spouse’s demands. This usually then leads to some judge who makes the decisions for you.
Although we discuss divorce law and the divorce mistakes made in the USA, I think it’s important to show how other countries progress in the custody rights issues of parents, primarily fathers. Many states in the US have either considered or have legislative bills offered for debate to change custody rights when going into a divorce. Several states have already instituted the presumed parenting arrangement of 50/50 between households.
The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) and many Canadian provinces have interpreted the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Criminal Code as guaranteeing equal treatment for fathers and mothers in custody disputes, but in reality, fathers receive the short end of the stick. The SCC in the M.C. v. J.M.R. case acknowledged that fathers in child custody disputes with their ex-partners are significantly more likely to lose custody of their children than the mothers they are in disputes with.
This Canadian case found that fathers do not have the same protection under the law as mothers have traditionally had.
In Canada as well as the United States (and many other countries worldwide) the laws, stigmas, and default parenting plans are changing to be more inclusive of all types of shared parenting plans.
About half of custodial fathers suffer from low self-esteem and have low feelings of connection with their children. Research by Duke University (USA) and University of Cambridge (UK) found that:
1) Respondents believed that if they behaved better and spent more time with their children, they would have better relationships with their kids.
2) Respondents believed that if they didn’t behave better and spent more time with their kids, they would have worse relationships with their kids.
3) Less than half thought the mothers were as interested in their children’s lives as they are.
4) Men don’t think that mothers “understand” or “understand the way men think”. It’s not surprising that men who have low self-esteem also have a tough time looking after their children.
First, as it turns out, many fathers have no idea how to create a healthy relationship with their children. A study by R. Grossmann, B. C. O’Neill, and M. A. Biederman conducted in 2008, showed that:
1) 91% of fathers think that they need to “win” the custody of their children
2) 81% of fathers feel that their parenting is a source of conflict.
3) 78% of fathers in these surveys believe that they need to negotiate and get their child’s mother to “give in” in order to have a positive relationship with their children.
4) 43% of fathers think that having a child with a woman they no longer love is a sign of having a dysfunctional relationship.
5) 84% of fathers believe that fathering is an unexplainable act.
To get sole custody or the best joint custody schedule as a father, you will need to:
You don’t have to be a lawyer or expert. There’s a lot of information about custody and visitation available online, and even on the back of free flyers that many courts hand out.
Even if you’re not familiar with your state’s custody rights laws, make sure you’re familiar with the basics of family law. You may not get your ideal custody arrangement, but at least you’ll be better able to make better child custody decisions in any legal proceeding.
Understand the differences between “Sole Custody” and “Joint Custody” which is easy for the most part. Also, know what “Physical Custody” and “Legal Custody” refer to. Now, you’ll see a variation of conjoining each to get something like “Joint Legal Custody” but, “Sole Physical Custody”. All of these are different types of child custody rights and will certainly be common questions you’re asked to decide upon in all custody situations.
Read over your list, with your eyes closed and in your head. Just don’t forget to double-check any of the details. If you don’t know your rights, and even if you think you do, it’s best not to take the chance.
Sometimes fathers miss the easiest way to see their kids more because they’re fearful of what their ex may say, or demand of them if they simply ask to see their kids more.
Often times though everything will be easy and many mothers will be open to fathers being more present in their kid’s lives. This is the simplest of custody decisions and you can avoid an expensive custody battle. Asking your spouse is always cheaper than hiring a child custody lawyer first.
Fathers need to be present and active in their children’s lives. How do you do that? Make sure that you spend quality time with your children. To start with, that doesn’t mean all of your time should be spent with your children. It can be your choice, however. Choose when you go to your child’s extracurricular activities at their schools, and when you drop your child off at daycare. Choose when you hang out with them and take them to the movies, bowling, or swimming.
Make sure you’re a good role model and give your child a voice. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically to be the best dad you can for your family. By spending quality time with your children, they will have a stronger relationship with you and they will see you as their hero again.
Form or attend support groups that will build relationships with the other fathers in your child’s schools or the neighborhood. Send regular pictures and videos of your child to share with their mother. Provide your child with your physical presence (i.e. if they are sick, take them to the doctor) by all means, document your child’s life with photos, videos, music, artwork, etc. These things will make your child feel loved and connected to you, but they’ll also show that you’re invested in their life and in them.
Stay calm and focused when interacting with the kids, but do not ask them to make adult decisions for the relationship, or lack of one, with their mother. Open lines of communication, especially with the mother will help find ways to resolve issues with their mother much easier. The best evidence you could ever give to a court when fighting for joint custody is the ability to communicate for the best interests of the child.
Hiring a family law specialist can be an effective way to negotiate for custody of children. A family law specialist can help negotiate with the mother. They know the law and have extensive experience negotiating and settling custody disputes.
Exercising your parental rights to gain custody and visitation can be challenging. But don’t give up hope. Keep in mind that any child custody fight or dispute over custody of your children will cost a lot of money to navigate the legal process and bring evidence in your favor. Try to eliminate any custody proceedings that you can which may mean more negotiation.
Of course, every child is different and both fathers and mothers have very different roles in family arrangements. That’s why I have provided these tips as a starting point. If you are a father who wishes to spend more time with your children, then read on. These 7 tips can be adapted to fit your situation.
Moving forward while building your case for better child custody arrangements either as a custody agreement with the kid’s mother or through a court’s custody order you need to do these fundamentals.
Don’t try to “negotiate” with the mother on obvious one-sided demands. Negotiations that go bad simply lead to child custody battles. Let your lawyer negotiate and they’ll do the right thing for you. Most likely they this is your first custody issue, while they have handled hundreds or more and know many more situations and tactics to win.
To be successful in getting even joint custody and visitation, you need to be supportive of your child. You need to support the child and not make it about the parent’s situation. Take time to mentally evaluate each area of your life and make sure the child is in the “winning column” each and every time.
Spending more time with your children means you’re building more and better reasons for you to legally increase your child custody arrangements with your ex. Obviously, if the children are getting more out of life by having a present and active father you’ve already won in their hearts and minds.
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