Can fathers be granted custody over their children? Upon divorce or separation, determining custody and access of the children is one of the more difficult parts. Fathers often feel they are on the short end of the stick, as many assume courts favor mothers in this regard.
Contrary to this belief, each parent starts with equal rights to custody and access, and there are many factors and considerations that come in to play before any final orders are made. In fact, the “tender years doctrine”, which states that children are better off with their mothers’ in their early years has been abandoned by the courts. The courts will always look to the best interests of the child first.
Sole Custody v.s. Joint Custody
Custody is the legal term which refers to how decisions about the child will be made, including health, religion, and education. Sole custody means that one parent will be making the major decisions about the child. The child would typically primarily reside with this parent. Joint custody means both parents will make major decisions about the child. Residence and access of the child vary on a case by case basis.
Mediation/Negotiation: Consider negotiation or mediation with the other parent. Joint custody is only plausible if both parties are, at least, civil and able to communicate effectively.
Court Decisions: If negotiation is not possible, the Court will look at factors including, but not limited to
• A parents emotional, physical and financial ability to care for a child;
• A parent’s relationship with the child;
• The relationship between the parents; or
• As the child gets older, the Court will also consider the wishes of the child
Considering the above factors, one should take into consideration the following when trying to obtain custody of the child:
• Court Orders: If your case is already before the courts it is important not to violate access, custody or support orders, whether they are temporary or final. Violating an order will show a lack of respect and responsibility.
• Build a relationship: Use your time during access to build a strong relationship with your child. Consider your child’s needs, likes, and dislikes. Take the time to get to know them and participate in their life. If you are able to show the Court that your child enjoys spending time with you and that you are capable of acting in their best interests this will support your claim for custody.
• Have a plan: Show that you create a stable, secure life for your child. This can be done by creating a schedule, a space for your child in your home, demonstrate support from family and friends, and your overall ability to provide a fulfilling life for the child. Ability to provide can be demonstrated in both an emotional and financial capacity.
• Don’t alienate: Stay clear of bad-mouthing or painting a negative picture of the other parent in front of your child. Doing so will likely grant the victimized parent more access or custody to undo the harm of the negative impressions imposed upon them.
• References: References from your friends, family, employers and/or social workers can help strengthen your case for custody and access.
Other factors such as relocation, a history of abuse, mental illness, drug, and alcohol use, and incarceration are also considered, if applicable.