“Why bother fighting for custody? The mother always wins.” How many times have you heard that when someone is going through a divorce or a breakup involving children? At one time, the numbers were definitely skewed towards women. One of the main reasons for this was that courts across the country followed a line of reasoning known as the “Tender Years Doctrine.” The tender years doctrine was developed by psychiatrists decades ago and the basic premise was that mothers were better care givers of children than father’s, especially for young children.
Virtually all states have abolished using the tender years doctrine in making child custody decisions, but that doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of judges still lean towards awarding a mother custody rather than a father. Today, while the numbers still favor moms, they are not as clearly in their favor. If you are in a custody case and are a man, you have a very good chance of winning at least joint custody unless there are specific conditions, such as physical abuse, that would immediately take you out of winning the custody battle.
Never Assume Anything in a Father’s Rights Fight
We all know what assuming does, right? By assuming the mother will automatically win custody, you are taking yourself out of the battle before it ever begins. Yes, as stated above, historically, women were often given custody, but times have changed. Today, men are just as likely to be the main caregiver or split “caregiver” duties evenly with their wives.
One of the main reasons for this change is the simple fact that more women have now entered the workforce and maintain full-time careers than they did in the 1950’s. Back in a time in America when men worked outside of the home and a majority of women stayed home with children, it made sense to award custody to moms. But now, with the likely scenario with both parents working full-time jobs, a father has the opportunity to be as involved as a mother does – if not more involved! In fact, Bureau of Labor Statistics graphs show that the number of women working has more than doubled since the 1950’s!
Today, Gender Means Less in Custody Battles
Times have dictated that most households are now two-income homes. If you and your spouse are splitting duties and both are just as capable of providing a good home to the children after you part ways, assuming you will lose is a big mistake. Even if you do not win sole custody, you may be awarded joint custody and still be able to spend a lot of time with your children. And in many states, the distinction between sole custody and joint custody no longer exists, and the judge simply grants shared parenting responsibilities to both of the parents and makes sure that both parents receive lots of time with their kids!
Many states have specifically enacted laws stating that men have equal rights to parenting time as women. And in states that have not specific laws stating this, the judges are all beginning to change the way they view cases. However, this does not mean that it is always easy to get equal rights as a father. This is where a group of family law attorneys who specialize in father’s rights come in. These attorneys have carved out a niche to fight for equal parenting rights for men – and the tide is turning in their favor more and more each year.
What Can a Father Do to Win Custody?
Winning custody is never an easy battle. In too many cases, parents try to tell the courts why the other parent is a bad parent. They may be pointing out the other spouse’s shortcomings, but they are also showing the courts a significant personality flaw in themselves. Instead of trying to show the court why the other parent is a bad parent, show why you are such a good parent!
- Don’t Leave the Home! – Unless a court order or the police have forced you out of the house with the kids, do not leave the house! Leaving the house guarantees the mother custody of the kids as you have left them in her care. Stay in the house and continue caring for the children.
- Spend Time with the Kids – Assuming you have left the home, spend as much time as you possibly can with the kids. Offer to pick them up from school. Help them with their homework, even if it is over the phone. And when you are with the kids, be with the kids, not with your new significant other!
- Establish a Consistent Home Environment – It is very important to the courts that the children’s lives be kept as normal as possible. This means you need to create a home that disrupts their current lives as little as possible. It doesn’t mean you need to live across the street, but you may want to look for a home or apartment that allows them to stay in the same school and still be close to their friends. Keep this in mind: virtually no judge will grant a parent shared 50/50 residential custody of a child to a parent that lives 30+ miles away from the other parent, but some judges will do so for parents that live only a mile or two apart.
- Stay Involved – Whatever you do, do NOT remove yourself from the everyday decisions of the welfare of your children. You still have a right in terms of their medical care, schooling, etc… so exercise them. If you give the impression you are checking out, you WILL lose custody. Be present at all doctors’ appointments, school functions, pta meetings, and extracurricular events. This is essential to show that you are as involved as the mother. And when it comes time for a trial, you will have all sorts of people available to testify to you being present at these events in your child’s life.