10 Child Custody Tips for Fathers

When it comes to divorce and custody, there are no easy decisions. The process is hard on everyone, especially the children.

For this reason, most judges try to ensure that the decisions they make are in the best interest of the children, which often means maintaining contact and relationships with both parents. There are some instances, such as abuse or substance use issues, when awarding full custody to one parent is the best option for everyone involved.

Historically for fathers, winning full custody has been challenging but not impossible, especially when they are motivated by the best interest of the children. In fact, when dads take the time to think through the decision and develop appropriate plans, they can win custody.

Still, it's important to note that even though the courts do not discriminate against dads, very few fathers have full custody of their children. According to the most recent census records, 17.5% of custodial parents are fathers.

Whether you are a father going for full custody or joint custody, you should do everything you can to prepare for child custody battle ahead of you. The following tips and recommendations will help you be thorough, prepare in advance, and make the best case for custody.


Be Realistic and Honest

Ask yourself, realistically, what you can handle. It's likely that you have other responsibilities, such as other children or multiple jobs. These responsibilities may affect your ability to assume custody, especially full custody.

If you do decide to lobby for full custody, be sure you think through how you will handle this responsibility as well as determine whether or not it's realistically manageable to do everything on your own. Having a clear plan of action will improve the likelihood that your request will be taken seriously.


Make a Plan

A judge will expect you to be prepared for custody if it is awarded. Compile intelligent responses to potential questions that are asked by a judge. For example, a judge may ask questions about living accommodations, the child's education (including after-school activities), and financial preparedness.

Be sure you have given some thought to these issues and that you are prepared to answer the judge's questions thoroughly and honestly.

Keep in mind, too, that most judges are not inclined to alter existing custody arrangements if things appear to be working well. If you are going to pursue full custody, you need to be able to present some compelling evidence as to why this decision is in the best interest of your children.


Talk to Other Parents

Speak to others who have been through the child custody process. Someone who has experienced the process can offer insight and let you know what to expect. However, be sure to stick to the facts and steer clear of the emotional aspects of the process.

Everyone experiences custody situations differently. Consequently, it's important that you don't let their emotional reactions cloud your judgement or cause you to respond out of fear or anxiety based on another person's experience.


Be Involved in Your Child's Life

When a child is not in your custody, call frequently and check in. Stop by the child’s school and introduce yourself to the administration. Check on your child’s progress often and ensure the child knows that you are there to offer assistance and support.

It’s important to attend your children’s social, educational, religious, and other important events as evidence of a continuing relationship with them. This could mean school plays, baptisms, birthday parties, and sporting events. A court will rely on this attendance as evidence of a meaningful relationship.


Pay Child Support

Whether you want full or joint custody, continue to make regular child support payments. If you have an informal arrangement with the child’s other parent, maintain records such as check receipts or a written letter from the other parent. You want to make sure you have a good track record.

If you are struggling to make payments, request a modification. But, you shouldn't attempt to get full custody just to eliminate paying child support.

Be sure you are pursuing what is best for your child. You also may want to consider whether or not you should request child support from the other parent along with attempting to get custody.


Keep Track of Visitations

Keep an accurate visitation schedule record to help win child custody. You can capture accurate visitation records by developing and maintaining a parenting plan. Submit the parenting plan to the court when child custody is discussed.

Another way to keep track of visitation is to use a calendar or a child custody app. Look for apps that include a time and date stamp as these are considered reliable pieces of evidence in court.


Create a Space for Your Child

Even if you live in a small space, you should make a special place in your home for your child. A court will ask about adequate living accommodations during all hearings for child custody. You should be prepared to respond to the judge’s inquiries regarding housing.

A judge will be looking to see if you have adequate space and appropriate accommodations for your child.

In other words, the judge will want to ensure you have a consistent bed for your child to sleep in and that they won't be sleeping in different places each night like on a couch or an air mattress.

The judge will also want to know about the safety and security of your home as well as whether or not you are there on a consistent basis. Be sure you have addressed all of these issues to the best of your ability before appearing in court.


Treat Co-Parents Respectfully

Always respect your child's other parent. The way you treat them may be a factor in determining child custody. Being disrespectful or rude to the child's other parent will affect your child, along with your chances of obtaining custody.

While both parents need to avoid trying to alienate their kids from the other parent, it's important that you do what you can to maintain their relationships with the other parent. Keep in mind, judges are more likely to side with the parent who has been the victim of parental alienation.

So, you want to be sure that even if your former partner is extremely challenging to co-parent with that you still do everything you can to be respectful. This includes speaking appropriately about them to your children.


Respect Your Child's Wishes

Too many times, parents only consider what they want or think is best for their children without ever considering what their children may want. When it comes to custody arrangements, including full custody, it's important to ask your kids what they think.

Knowing this information can help guide your decisions and requests, especially because the judge also will want to know what the kids want and will likely ask them at some point. Take the time to really listen to your kids and determine what they see as the ideal custody arrangement.

While you may not be able to accommodate every wish, it's important that they have a say in where they live and with whom.

Allow them to share their thoughts and opinions without trying to convince them or sway them one way or another. Then, use this information to draft a custody request that lets them know you listened to them and care about their thoughts and feelings.


Consider Mediation or Arbitration

Consider mediation or arbitration prior to undergoing an adversarial court hearing. In mediation or arbitration, cases are decided by a neutral third party. Custody proceedings in a courtroom may be difficult to handle, and you may prefer the smaller, friendlier setting associated with mediation or arbitration.

Both mediation and arbitration provide a way to solve differences between two parties without having to go to court. But, it's important to know the differences between the two before agreeing to one of these methods.

With mediation, a mediator works to help both parties come to an agreement. When mediation ends, the people involved either have reached an agreement or they are deadlocked.

Meanwhile, with arbitration, an arbitrator works with both parties but renders a final decision at the conclusion, which can be enforceable in a court of law. If both parties have not waived their rights to a trial, then arbitration will eventually lead to an appearance in court where the arbitrator's recommendations are usually given significant consideration.

Both avenues have pros and cons and can ultimately save parents money, especially if they are willing to solve their differences and come to an agreement outside of a courtroom. You should talk to your attorney to determine which option is right for you.

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  1. United States Census Bureau. Custodial mothers and fathers and their child support.