Factors Used to Determine Child Custody for Fathers

Father Carrying Sleeping Daughter
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Custody battles usually present a challenge for all parties involved. However, if you're a father trying to win child custody, you may wonder if your gender could impact your case, especially given the past practice of mothers seemingly having a measurable advantage in family courts across the nation. Whether you're a single father heading to the court for the first time, or you're appealing an existing child custody order, you'll want to bear the following in mind.

Educate Yourself About the Types of Child Custody

Any father who wants to pursue custody of his child should start by understanding the differences between full custody and joint custody. These terms can be tricky because there are generally two types of custody that need to be determined: physical custody and legal custody.

Full custody allows one parent to have both legal and physical custody of a child, while joint custody allows both parties to share physical and/or legal custody of a child.

Generally, the courts prefer for both parents to share physical and legal custody of a child, if possible. However, it is possible for parents to share legal custody but not physical custody. In such cases, it is common for the non-custodial parent to have liberal visitation with the child.

What Fathers Need to Know About Child Custody and Discrimination

Although this issue is often disputed, most courts will not discriminate against a father during a child custody dispute. In addition, family courts will not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Therefore, in theory, a biological father should have equal opportunity with the mother when it comes to child custody, assuming that he has ​established paternity of the child.

Not sure whether you need to formally determine paternity? Check the laws in your state. In many jurisdictions, paternity is presumed if the parents were married at the time of child's birth or conception. If you do need to establish paternity, either parent can initiate that process by contacting your local Office of Child Support Enforcement. Keep in the mind that the state will likely also initiate a child support order if you do not have one in place already.

Factors Considered

As you go through this process, you'll also want to understand the considerations weighed by the court prior to attending a scheduled child custody court proceeding.

While there are some variations from state to state, family courts generally consider the following factors:

  • Each parent's relationship with the child
  • The child's wishes (depending on his or her age)
  • The best interests of the child
  • Each parent's ability to support the child
  • Paternity
  • Each parent's financial resources

Getting Help From the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)

If you do not know where your child lives, you can seek assistance from the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS). The FPLS can search their databases for confidential information relating to the whereabouts of a child and the child's mother. Confidential information includes the mother's last known address as well as the name and address of a current or last known employer.

Additional Tips for Fathers Seeking Child Custody

It is never a good idea for parents to argue, especially in front of their children. Instead, you should make every effort to communicate with your ex about any obstacles preventing you from reaching an informal child custody agreement. In addition, it will be to your benefit to always consider the best interests of your child. For more information about custody for fathers, read your state's child custody guidelines or speak with a qualified attorney in your area.

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2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Raub JM, Carson NJ, Cook BL, Wyshak G, Hauser BB. Predictors of Custody and Visitation Decisions by a Family Court Clinic. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2013;41(2):206-218.

  2. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Children's Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS. Determining the Best Interests of the Child. Updated March 2016.