All courts have state guidelines they must follow in allowing one parent to win child custody over the other. The first priority is generally which parent’s situation serves the best interests of the child. However, most courts honor some key elements, even though they may not appear in state laws or child custody guidelines. If fathers hope to win child custody, they must understand not only the laws, but also the general preferences of the courts in their jurisdiction.
Child Custody Guidelines
The general guidelines that most states include in their laws are substantially the same:
- The best interests of the child, often including food, shelter, education, medical care, daycare, health insurance, and special needs
- The income of both parents
- The expenses of both parents
- The child’s standard of living before the divorce or separation
While states often have their own additions or variations of those standards, they may be quite similar. However, there are a few additional guidelines that courts often consider, but rarely list on the child custody guidelines:
- Whether each parent will nurture and encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
- The morality of each parent and how their lifestyle affects the child
- The type of school the child will attend, often weighing in favor of the parent who makes more money and lives in a more affluent area
- The parent’s relationship and proximity to other family members
A Father’s Obstacles
Fathers often still face an uphill battle when attempting to gain custody of the children. In modern times, some courts no longer automatically consider the mother the best one to obtain physical custody. Yet other courts clearly consider mothers a more likely candidate unless there are factors that would prove otherwise. For fathers, then, it is important to prove that they have the ability to provide a more loving and stable home than what the mother could provide. There are several ways they can do so:
- By presenting a thorough and well-prepared case showing that even though the mother consistently participated in more parenting activities during the marriage, that was only because the father probably had to put in more hours at work while the mother stayed home. After the divorce, she may be required to work a similar schedule as the father and this may put them on equal footing.
- By providing evidence of any weaknesses the mother may have, in a respectful way, that the father may not. Being respectful of the other partner is essential, but revealing the true qualities each party possesses in relation to parenting time and skills is essential.
- By providing evidence, through testimony and affidavits of family, friends and co-workers, of the father’s fitness to care for the children.
- By providing evidence that the father can provide a more stable home, both in terms of finances and consistency. If the mother is breaking free of marriage constraints and showing little evidence of a steady work history, the father may have the edge.
Getting Legal Help in a Father’s Fight to Obtain Child Custody
No matter what the courts and laws say, the mother often has priority in custody battles unless there is clear evidence that they are unfit. It can be difficult for a father to prove that without appearing vindictive. However, if they obtain the services of an experienced child custody attorney, they can present the evidence effectively without casting doubts about the father’s character, possibly opening the door for the father to win custody.