The word “divorce” conjures up negative thoughts that may include loss of child custody. Fathers and custody in divorce have not gone hand-in-hand in the past. Though more fathers are receiving custody, many still are not. There is an alternative called visitation that fathers who want to remain involved in their children’s lives should explore.
Visitation is granted to a parent who is not awarded custody of the children. For example, the court may grant the mother sole physical custody and award visitation to the father. The children will live with the mother on a daily basis and visit with the father for short periods of time pre-arranged by the parents or the court. This allows both parents to see their children and engage in some level of caregiving during the formative years.
Father’s Visitation Rights
A father’s visitation rights have not been exercised consistently over the years. Initially, most courts refused to grant fathers any rights, awarding sole physical and legal custody to mothers. The assumption was that the mother-child bond was not to be broken. However, subsequent research revealed that children benefit from relationships with both of their parents, causing courts to focus on a father’s rights.
When parents go through a divorce, they must make physical and legal custody decisions. Physical custody dictates where the child will reside and legal custody determines which parent is legally authorized to make important childrearing decisions. Family law attorneys can help parents reach a consensus without much disagreement. If parents cannot determine these arrangements, they must turn the case over to a court for a family judge to make the decisions. This can be a scary situation because it puts a stranger in charge of the outcome.
A mother’s and a father’s rights are equal in child custody cases. However, one parent may be the more suitable caregiver based on income, career flexibility, residence, or other factors. The primary factor to consider when making custody decisions is what will be in the best interests of the children. Whether the parents or the courts are the decision-makers, the children remain the primary consideration.
Fathers may have trouble advocating for themselves during custody discussions because they assume they will emerge on the losing end. Family lawyers promote a dad’s rights in divorce, helping their male clients receive child visitation. With these attorneys on their side, fathers feel confident discussing custody issues because they are more likely to get what they want.