Many child custody cases have mothers and fathers who would each make great parents. If the children would be in great hands with both parents, then why is it that by default the mother often gets primary possession? Is it because she is a mother? Is it because societal and gender norms have been so long standing that we have been told that children are best suited to live with the mother the majority of the time? Or is it because fathers are not aware that they too have rights to fight for the primary possession of their children and fathers are unaware there are steps they can take to increase their chances of being awarded primary possession? The answer is an astounding “yes” to all of these questions.
Facts About Fathers
In June of 2019, the Pew Research Center came out with a list of eight facts about American Dads:
- More dads are staying home to care for their kids. As of 2016, 17% of all stay-at-home parents were fathers.
- Dads see parenting as central to their identity. Dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is extremely important to their identity.
- Work-family balance is a challenge for many working fathers. Over 50% of working dads said it is difficult to find a work-family balance.
- Most Americans think men face a lot of pressure to provide financially for their family. 76% of men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially, whereas only 40% of women face that same pressure.
- It is becoming less common for dads to be their family’s sole breadwinner. As of 2016, only 27% of families with children under 18 were families where only the father works.
- Dads are much more involved in childcare than they were 50 years ago. In recent years, fathers reported spending an average of eight hours a week on childcare, which is triple the time that it was in 1965.
- When it comes to caregiving, moms and dads are still viewed differently. Although 45% of Americans said mothers and fathers do equally well caring for a new baby, only 1% of Americans said fathers do a better job than mothers.
- While they are spending more time with their children, many dads feel they are not doing enough. In a 2017 survey 63% of dads said they spend too little time with their kids, compared to 35% of mothers who said the same.
These facts may be concerning to fathers who are coming into an attorney’s office trying to get primary conservatorship. Having said that, there are steps a father can take to change the narrative. If he really wants to be the primary conservator, it is possible.
An attorney will ask his or her client what he is doing to take action. Nothing good comes easily, and a father must be willing to put in the work. Here are three things that a father can do to take action to better their chances at being the primary conservator of their child.
- Be an active participant in your child’s life. Do you drop off and pick your children up from school? Do you take your child to doctors’ appointments? Do you consult with your child’s doctor? Are you active in your child’s education plans and decisions? Does your child’s school know you and consult with you? Are you engaged in your child’s extra-curricular activities? These are all very important things to be doing. Two of the biggest hot topics of litigation surrounding parenting rights are who has the exclusive right to make educational and medical decisions. If a father can illustrate that he is the primary parent and point person of contact for doctors, medical offices, and teachers or coaches, it goes a long way with the court.
- Document everything. The truth always comes out in divorce and child custody cases. Any tangible evidence may be useful in a custody case, so write everything down. Keep a journal illustrating all of the times the other parent is late to pick up their child when it is their parenting time, and any other issues you may face. Journals have the ability to illustrate a pattern of continuous disregard to a court, or lack of effort on the mother’s behalf to spend time with the child. These notes can be very useful. What may not seem useful to a client may be very useful to an attorney. Therefore, document, document, document.
- Spend extended periods of time with your child. It is hard to walk into court asking a judge to award you primary possession when you haven’t shown any history of extended parenting time. Despite society changing and the misconception that mothers are “better” parents has somewhat diminished, it is still glaringly apparent that judges are more likely to side with the mother. Therefore fathers sometimes have an uphill battle. It is important to step up, even if it’s inconvenient. Are you offering to transport your child from place to place? Do you put your child before work? Do you put your child before other commitments? Do you assist your child with his or her homework? Do you play with your child? Do you cook your child dinner? It is imperative that you take every opportunity to spend time with your child. This must start before you file for custody.
If you haven’t spent extended periods of time with your child, then you cannot expect to come in front of the court and pretend you are a super dad. The judge will see right through your act. It is astonishing how many people think they can pull one over on the courts. Judges — especially family law judges — see hundreds of cases every week. At the end of the day the judge only cares about one thing: What is in the best interest for your child? Anything else is an afterthought for them, and it should be for you as well.
Contact an Attorney
Divorce and child custody disputes are never blameless, but raising a child is where parents must rise above their personal feelings and think of what is best for the child. For a father to win primary conservatorship over his child, he must be able to establish to the court that he has played a tremendously important role in his child’s life on a daily basis. It is time fathers take a more active role in their child’s lives and assert their parenting rights. If you or someone you know is in a battle for child custody, contact a child custody lawyer, like a child custody lawyer in Dallas, TX, today.
Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into some of the rights fathers have, and the best way for them to get child custody after a divorce.