Children younger than 18 are considered minors and when their parents’ divorce, decisions must be made regarding their care and upbringing. With help from mediators and family law attorneys, many parents are able to reach custody agreements. Others must go to court and let a judge decide. In either situation, a mother’s and a father’s rights to custody are equal.
A father’s custody rights in divorce were not always viewed this way. In particular, courts typically awarded custody to the mother of the children because the mother-child bond was deemed the strongest. More recently, psychological research has proven this untrue, recognizing the importance of each parent in the life of a child. Courts now award fathers custody more frequently, though mothers still win the majority of child custody cases.
State laws categorize legal and physical custody as separate matters. Physical custody refers to in-person caregiving time and legal custody pertains to the right to make health, education, and general welfare decisions relevant to a child. Fathers are entitled to both types of custody and may be granted it solely or share it with the mothers of their children. Joint physical and legal custody are preferred because they allow both parents to remain involved in childrearing.
A family law attorney retained by a divorcing male parent advocates a father’s custody rights in divorce. This type of lawyer specializes in divorce cases and has expertise in child custody issues. A father may choose to retain a family lawyer when pursuing an uncontested divorce, letting the attorney lead divorce and custody negotiations. Fathers engaged in contested divorces should hire family law attorneys because being unrepresented in court often has unfavorable outcomes.
Fathers seeking sole physical or legal custody usually have the most difficulty successfully making their cases. To win, a male parent must prove that he is a better sole caregiver and decision-makers than the mother of his children is, which goes against societal stereotypes. Understanding which evidence to present and how to present it can be difficult without legal assistance.
Every father seeking custody of his children should consider retaining a family lawyer. Many of these attorneys offer initial consultations at little or no cost, allowing fathers to learn more about the benefits of this legal representation. The best family law attorney is a tough but realistic negotiator who fights for a client while understanding that ultimately, the needs of the child trump everything.