San Diego Local Community News

The Importance of Giving Fathers a Fair Chance at Child Custody
A father plays an essential role in the life of a child. As a father, you need to understand this and fight for your rightful place in your child’s life even after divorce or separation. It is therefore essential to understand child custody, various types of custody, benefits of shared custody, how to avoid mistakes that may cost you the custody of your child, multiple issues faced while seeking custody, and the tips you can use to make the process of seeking custody easy. Always remember it is best to consult with a family law lawyer when seeking child custody; they have the expertise and experience to help you make the right decision concerning your specific situation.
Overview of Child Custody
Many people still hold on to the traditional belief that when fighting for child custody, preference should be given to the mother. When facing divorce and custody cases, many fathers are surprised to learn that they have similar custody rights as mothers. Most fathers assume that they have no chance of gaining child custody, and as a result, they give up the custody fight too quickly. It is common for the mother to be given slight custody preference, especially if the child is very young. However, the right principle when making a custody arrangement is to have the best interest of the child in mind. It is vital for both parents to have regular contact with the child.
The California Family Code § 3020 (b) outlines that after parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, children need regular and continuing contact with both parents. The law recommends sharing of the rights and responsibilities of bringing up a child between both parents. The rights of a mother are the same as those of a father in child custody.
Unlike in the past, when courts placed child custody rights on the child’s mother, recent rulings have more fathers gaining custody rights while mothers gain visitation rights. A father has the same capability to take care of a child as that of a mother.
It is possible to agree on a custody agreement out of court. The parents can use the arbitration or mediation processes to agree with how to take care of their child instead of undergoing a court hearing. Parents still need to seek legal counsel while settling custody battles out of court. Therefore, it is crucial to find a family law lawyer who will advise you on any issues that may arise. Out of court, a neutral third party decides custody hearings. Mediation or arbitration hearings may be favorable for fathers seeking custody, as they are less time consuming and affordable.
Types of Child Custody
Child custody may either be legal or physical. Legal custody entails being involved in making crucial decisions regarding the child’s welfare. For instance, you will have a say on the type of school your child attends and the medical aid as well. Physical custody entails being part of the day to day activities of the child such as picking them from school, participating in sporting activities, and other routine activities.
Both legal and physical custody can be shared between the two parents. When apportioning custody rights, the court will make the decision that benefits the child the most.
Benefits of a Fathers Involvement in Child Custody
The benefits that a child reaps from having a present father while growing up are countless. Most child problems such as rebellion and addiction to drugs and substance abuse stem from growing up without a father. A father acts as the head of a family, and most children look up to their fathers for guidance. Having a father gives a child a sense of belonging.
Harvard Extension School carried out a study on The Roles of Fathers in Childhood Development. The study revealed that both parents are very crucial as they play different roles in children’s lives. Mothers are mainly involved in nurturing a child. Fathers offer hands-on caregiving; they play with the children; they teach the children to be hardened through rough games, helping with homework, and picking and dropping children in school, among other direct tasks.
In the 1970s, most studies compared children with fathers with children whose fathers had died or left. Current studies focus on the roles of fathers in children’s lives. A senior lecturer examined the roles of parents in her doctoral dissertation at Brandeis University. She observed during children-parent outings, fathers’ play style was active. Fathers would throw their children high in the air. Mothers’ play styles were gentle and focused on teaching and nurturing the children.
Some of the benefits of sharing custody with a child’s father include:
Best Interest of the Children
When custody is shared between the two parents, children thrive. It has been proved beyond doubt that shared parenting enhances proper child development. Each parent has a positive contribution to the life of a child. The knowledge a child acquires from their father is unique from that they learn from their mother. Sharing parenting ensures that a child has a balanced and stable development. The child can develop with the influence of both parents.
Children Cannot Be Manipulated
Shared custody helps discourage parents from offering the child contradicting information. For example, if one parent has full custody of a child, they may spend much time feeding the child on the negative traits of the other parent. If a mother always tells a child about the negative side of their father, the child may end up being entirely disconnected from the father. Shared parenting helps reduce such incidences.
An End to Custody Battles
The founder of the National Parents Organization in Massachusetts outlined that shared custody helps prevent harmful custody battles and helps partners heal from the effects of a failed marriage. Shared custody also helps to prevent trauma that a child may experience by constantly experiencing confrontation between parents. Shared child custody helps create a common ground for divorced parents. With the best interest of the child in mind, parents have to be cordial to each other and work together in bringing up the child.
Children Connect With Relatives
The child may be affected after a divorce after being separated from other relatives such as grandparents from either parent’s side. By embracing shared custody, a child can still interact with the extended family members. This interaction is the best way to help a child recover from the trauma that results from divorce or separation.
Children Grow into Better Adults
Fathers play a significant role in the life of a child. Past studies reveal that a child who grows up in the presence of a father is likely to:

  • Be more successful in education and attain exceptional performance
  • Have a minimal chance of experiencing feelings of depression and low self-esteem
  • Have lower chances of exhibiting disruptive behavior
  • Avoid involvement in drug and other substance abuse
  • Be honest and trustworthy

Child Custody Mistakes Fathers Make
When seeking custody for your child, you have to play your cards right. Making some mistakes may cost you significantly and lower your chances of winning the custody battle. Therefore, check with a family law lawyer to see if there is anything you can do to help you gain custody of your children. There are several mistakes that most fathers make while seeking child custody:

  1. Assuming Fathers have Limited Custody Rights

Instead of seeking the guidance of a family law lawyer to help them understand their rights, most fathers assume that they have limited or no rights to child custody and visitation. Most divorced men with children hold on to the belief that custody battles are always biased against the fathers. If you make this assumption as a father, you may live to regret it. The only factor that may alter equal rights of child custody is an accusation of domestic violence. If a father is facing allegations for domestic violence or other criminal activities, custody may be given to a mother. However, even if a father has a bad record and has made mistakes in the past, he can still make amends and request for child custody in court with the representation of an attorney.

  1. Failure to Seek Order Amendments

When fighting for child custody, a father has to prove that he can support his child. Often, when the judge gives a ruling regarding child support and custody, most fathers assume that the verdict cannot be amended. As a father, if you are faced with unexpected financial constraints such as medical costs, switching jobs, or pay reduction, you have a right to negotiate for reduced child support without losing your custody and visitation rights.
In their attempt to be good fathers, most men struggle with hefty child support burdens and debts start piling up. Failure to honor a court child support commitment may result in fines or even jail time, and this would separate you from your child. It is essential for fathers to understand that the inability to pay child support does not make them failures or bad fathers.
Modifications to child custody are also easy to make. If a father feels that he needs more time with his child, he can present this request in court instead of trying to make informal negotiations with the child’s mother.

  1. Filing Frivolous Claims

While fighting for child custody, most fathers may exhibit desperate conduct, and this may affect the court outcome. Most fathers have the misconception that if they spend vast amounts of money and outspend the opposing side, they will gain victory.  If a father’s conduct frustrates the policy of the law to promote litigation settlement, the court may decide to award the opposing side attorney’s fees as provided under California Family Code § 271. As a father, if you are disorderly during the divorce or custody proceedings, you may incur more by paying the attorney’s fees for the opposing side. It is wise to be calm and work toward a fair child custody ruling.
Common Issues Fathers Face while Seeking Child Custody
Although the law makes provision for equal custody rights for mothers and fathers, it is not always easy for fathers to gain custody rights. Hindering factors exist, and as a father, you have to be determined enough to win the battle. Some issues may hinder a father’s ability to spend adequate time with a child:

  1. Hectic Work Schedules

A father may have a hectic work schedule that does not accord him enough time to spend with his children. Too much commitment may make it hard for a father to secure custody rights, especially when the child’s mother has a flexible schedule. A family law lawyer can help a father negotiate for a flexible visitation schedule which gives him ample time with his children. A father may also seek make-up dates if he is unable to meet the child during the set dates and times.

  1. b) Inability to Prove His Interest in the Child’s Life

If the father did not have an active interest in the life of the child while he was still together with the child’s mother, it might be hard for him to acquire a generous custody arrangement. If you experience this predicament as a father, you should not lose hope. With the help of an attorney, you can fight for a favorable custody arrangement.

  1. c) A stubborn Opposing Party

A father may have to deal with a difficult ex-wife or ex-girlfriend who may complicate a child custody arrangement. Opposing mothers have been known to fabricate lies in an attempt to win custody battles. For instance, a child’s mother may allege to be facing domestic violence at home. As a father, you may still win the custody battle despite such challenges.
Child Custody Tips for Fathers
When seeking child custody, the court evaluates various aspects of fatherhood to determine whether to grant the child’s father custody. The court will examine the support a child receives from the father in terms of provision for his needs as well as emotional support. Does a bond exist between the father and the child? Can the father be trusted to handle the child in the absence of the child’s mother? Specific tips can simplify a father’s custody battle:

  1. Pay Child Support and Keep Record

Paying up the necessary child support and documenting the payments can make a child custody battle easy for a father. If a father has an informal child support arrangement with a mother, it is wise to document the agreement and record all the payments made towards the welfare of the child. If a father is unable to meet child support payments, it is wise to request a modification instead of abandoning the fees. This way, a father will always have a right to be close to the child.

  1. Bond with the Child

As a father, it may be hard to enjoy equal custody rights for your child if you do not have a strong relationship with the child. Spend time with your child and build a strong bond. In cases where the child is old enough, they will have a voice in the procedures of making custody decisions. If you are disconnected with your child, the child may not feel comfortable to spend time with you, and this may affect your chances of shared custody

  1. Be Present During Important Events

To prove that you are a father that cares for his child, you should be present during essential functions and milestones in your child’s life. Be present in events such as the first day at school, baptism, sporting events, and birthday parties. During a custody hearing, a court may rely on this as evidence of a close relationship between father and child.

  1. Avoid Conflict

Being disrespectful or being in constant conflict with the mother of the child may affect your rights for child custody. The way you treat the mother of the child may be a critical determining factor during the custody case hearing. Signs of violent behavior or domestic abuse may lead to instant disqualification.

  1. Be True to Self

While seeking custody, evaluate your capabilities as a father. If you have other responsibilities such as an involving job or other commitment, consider the time you can allocate to your child and seek custody depending on the time you can offer. Consider also your financial capabilities as these will affect your ability to meet the child’s needs.

  1. Seek Counsel

The best counsel regarding child custody can be offered by a family law lawyer who understands the different facets of family law. You may also interact with other divorced fathers who still access and interact with their children and learn from them. A lawyer can help you understand the custody process and what to expect.

  1. Have a Plan

When seeking custody, the judge will find to know the plan for the child’s father in case custody is awarded. You have to prove that you can offer your child the right living conditions and that you can take care of the child’s needs, such as education and other living expenses.

  1. Put Your Child First

Child custody battles can turn foul as parents seek custody right. By putting the child first, the custody hearing will not be about winning. Instead, it will involve reaching an agreement that meets the needs of the child. The aim of custody should be to ensure that a child receives the best care and thrives in a positive environment.
Do Not Lose Custody Without a Fight
The days of fathers not standing a chance of winning child custody battles are long gone. Currently, the law is fair enough and offers equal rights for child custody to both parents. As a father, you should be familiar with all laws relating to child custody. You should also seek the presence of a competent family law lawyer to help you win the custody battle. You cannot let a divorce or a separation separate you from your child. Your presence in your child’s life will go a long way in shaping the person they

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