Child Custody for Fathers

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Several years ago, many courts and juries consistently presumed that the mother of a child would be the best managing conservator. Fortunately, in recent years that mind-set has begun to change. It is still somewhat difficult for a father to get custody of their child. However, by developing their case before and during the filing of their petition, more dads are successfully obtaining custody of their children.

You Must Preplan for Custody
A critical first step is to preplan for custody, if you can. For example, don’t file a motion for full custody and tell the court that sometime in the near future you are going to get a house or apartment with enough bedrooms and furniture. Your request will be met with more sincerity if you already have the house and bedroom set up for your child. You can then present pictures of your home and the child’s room as evidence that you are willing and able to assume full custody of your child. Know where your child will go to school in your area and establish a relationship with a primary care physician (doctor). These are things which were historically viewed as handled by the mom. Knowing and being able to articulate how you are going to raise your child will demonstrate that you are capable of fulfilling all the needs of your child.

Step Up to the Plate When Your Child Needs You
Some situations may not allow you to pre-plan as much. If your child is placed with a children’s protective agency because of neglect or abuse while with the mother of the child, volunteer to take possession of the child. Failure to step up to the plate as a parent when your child needs you the most can throw you into a difficult custody battle with the agency or other relatives who were willing to take your child into their home.

Gather Evidence When There is Neglect or Endangerment Involved
If you are in a jurisdiction that is still somewhat biased against fathers as managing conservators, effective planning of your case before and during your child custody dispute is critical. For example, if the mother of the child has any negative parenting traits, gather as much information as possible to document her bad tendencies. Information can include arrests for possessing controlled substances and living with a convicted sex offender. Most states now have online databases that require sex offenders to list the exact address where they are living. You can also get copies of their prior arrest reports through open records requests. If the mother works all the time, subpoena her employment records to demonstrate that your child is actually being raised by a third party. See the article on “How to Use Discovery to Gather Evidence in Your Child Custody Case” for other ways to gather information in your child custody case.

Overcoming Bias Against Dads
To get custody of their children, many dads are required to show that the mother of the child is a bad parent, thereby prompting an ugly custody dispute. Fortunately, more jurisdictions are reducing this effect by opening up to the idea that a dad can be just as effective a managing conservator as a mother. To overcome a bias against you as a father, the main objective is to be able to articulate why you would be the better parent for your child. Because bias and family codes are state specific, you may want to visit with the members of an organization in your state that supports dads who seek custody of their children. However, for legal advice specific to your situation, contact a qualified family law attorney in your area.

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