Child Custody Tips & Common Pitfalls for Fathers

When child custody is being disputed, missteps can be easy to make and are difficult to reverse. For a father to succeed, it is essential that he makes smart decisions early on and has a solid understanding of the factors that Family Court Judges consider when determining child custody.

Using these criteria as guidance while building your case will help you to effectively demonstrate your parenting capabilities, as well as commitment to, and involvement with your child. While no strategies are guaranteed to win custody of your child, following these preparation tips will help you strengthen your case and protect your rights as a parent.

Essential Tips

    Be Actively Involved

    Make sure you are able to demonstrate that you are significantly involved in your child’s life by taking an active role in the care, development, and discipline of your child. If you child is young, participate in feeding, bathing, walking, reading, napping and medical care. As they grow older, take part in their educational development and extracurricular activities. Get to know your children’s teachers, doctors, counselors, and coaches. Your ability to demonstrate the extent and quality of time with your child prior to and post separation is critical. If the other parent is interfering with your involvement, document your attempts and the resistance that you are receiving.

    Establish a Physical Custody Schedule

    If you live separately from the other parent, it is critical that you negotiate a physical custody schedule that accurately represents your long-term goal of shared parenting, ideally before a custody petition or complaint has been filed. If you currently have a visitation agreement, make every effort not to miss any of your scheduled time.

    Spend as much time with your child as possible. Once parents have been following a set schedule for a significant amount of time, the Family Court will look to this schedule as the status quo and Judges don’t like to change what appears to be “already working”. NOTE: Percentage of Physical Custody is generally calculated by the number of overnights the child spends with each parent per year.

    Promote Involvement of the other Parent

    Show that you encourage the contact and active involvement between your child and their other parent. Unless clear evidence shows the child is in danger while in their care, the Family Court will frown upon your interference with the child’s relationship to their other parent. During a dispute, don’t encourage your child to call other adults by parental names such as “Mom” or “Dad”; this will cause tension, confusion, and it may be interpreted as Parental Alienation by the Family Court. Avoid any actions that clearly alienate your child from their other parent.

    Provide a Healthy, Stable Environment

    Present a safe, nurturing and stable environment. Demonstrate that you provide a healthy environment by maintaining a steady, clutter free home with a bedroom for your child and a safe play space. Provide regular, nutritious meals and keep a record of your grocery receipts.

    Be Dependable, Demonstrate Consistency

    Always be punctual for exchanges, pick-ups, and drop-offs. Provide younger children with a steady routine to encourage a sense of security and self-discipline. If the other parent is unreliable and often late for scheduled exchanges, clearly document these occasions. Maintain records of your correspondence with the other parent that demonstrates your reliability and commitment to your child’s needs.

    Keep Your Composure and Put Your Child First

    Custody disputes are often contentious and highly emotional, but maintaining self-control is paramount. Whether you are still living together or in separate households, it is critical that you remain calm and collected in all interactions. Communication with the other parent should be mild-mannered. When discussing parenting matters, keep the topic centered around the needs and well-being of the child.

    Prior to any exchanges or interactions with the other parent, remind yourself to be non-confrontational with your actions and words. Your interactions during child exchanges can be cited in evidence. If a contentious issue is brought up in front of the child, gracefully request that you both continue the conversation via e-mail or during a time when the child isn’t present.

    Connect with Other Parents

    It’s important that your parenting efforts and commitment to your child is witnessed by others in the community. Maintain an active rapport with fellow parents and families. Join a playdate group, schedule weekly outings with other families, or attend kid-friendly community events. These parents will be able to attest to your involvement and behavior around your child, as well as demonstrate to the Judge that you have maintained a strong support network. If testimony is needed to support your custody case, these individuals can shed some positive light.

    Parenting Skills & Responsibilities

    It may become necessary to demonstrate your parental skills and responsibility to the Family Court.
    Depending on your case, you may need to highlight your competence in:

  • Exercising proper discipline or behavior management (corporal punishment is not recommended)
  • Educational and developmental guidance (homework, art projects, learning activities, etc)
  • Positive role modeling (consistency, patience, morality)
  • Your ability to connect emotionally with your child (understand how to effectively soothe them and help them problem solve)
  • If you can improve or modify your current situation, behaviors, or parenting skills that positively impact your child, you should implement those changes immediately. Do not underestimate how much a disgruntled ex will try to place your parenting skills in question.

    Keep Impeccable Documentation

    It is essential to maintain a daily journal with accurate times and locations of events and incidents. Log activities, adventures, and milestones with your child and any incidents or confrontation involving the other parent. It’s best to record information soon after the event occurred and make sure your writing is legible in case it is used as evidence.

    Keep all communication with your ex including email, text messages, voicemails, instant messages, and handwritten notes/letters. Maintain an organized and labeled file folder and photo album. Keep accurate financial records with bank statements, receipts, pay stubs, and child support payment history. If there has been any concerns or incidents of domestic violence, drug or child abuse, or false allegations, keep accurate notes, obtain any available police reports, and above all, learn how to collect powerful evidence and organize it for your case.

    For further guidance on how to gather and prepare evidence for a child custody case, read Evidence Strategies for Child Custody, an essential guide book for any parent in a custody dispute.

 

Common Pitfalls

    Parental Alienation & Slander

    While things are heated, do not expose your child to the dysfunction or any resentment that you may have towards your ex. Do not try to sabotage, discourage, undermine or interfere with your child’s relationship to their other parent, no matter how covert. Never share inappropriate information regarding the custody case or make them feel like they have to choose a side. A child has a right to a relationship with the other parent that is free of negative influence.

    Remember, if you degrade your ex in front of your child, you are essentially degrading a part of your child. This behavior can cause serious harm to their wellbeing and can be interpreted as a form of emotional abuse. Family Courts take Parental Alienation very seriously. It is your responsibility to help your child to adjust physically and emotionally to new custody arrangements.

    Unwillingness to Co-Parent, Being the Difficult Parent

    Do not make unilateral decisions on matters that should be discussed by both parents (ie. Removing the child from their school and enrolling them in another). Do not withhold important information from the other parent such as your child’s school or medical documents. While maintaining a healthy boundary, demonstrate your flexibility and willingness to work with the other parent. Document your ex’s resistance to co-parent, tendency to create conflict or any unilateral decisions made.

    Present yourself as more cooperative and willing to work together. Do not engage in any behavior or actions that encourage the Judge to pin you as the difficult parent. The majority of cases that actually reach trial include at least one parent who can be deemed abnormally difficult and/or mentally unstable. Judges will try to identify early on which parent is resisting an amicable situation or not considering the best interest of the child.

    If your ex has a high-conflict personality (HCP), continue to show your willingness and attempts to co-parent until a proper custody is ordered. When negotiating a parenting agreement with an HCP, a parallel parenting arrangement may be better suited.

    Moving Out

    Never prematurely move out of the family’s primary residence. If you live in a safe and stable home, it is preferable not to move during a custody dispute. This can be construed as abandonment and can negatively impact custody rulings, child support payments, and alimony. If it is necessary to live apart from the primary residence, do not leave without securing a signed parenting agreement that includes a physical schedule outlining your percentage of time and overnights with the child. When at all possible, stay in the primary residence.

    Signing Off on Temporary Custody

    Signing off on an unequal or unfair temporary custody agreement before the final order is made can greatly weaken your case. Many fathers find that a “temporary” custody arrangement often becomes permanent and it can be a lengthy and difficult process to change. If a father aims to secure equal time with his child, he needs to show that it is in their best interest and arrange as much time as possible from the start.

    Exhibiting Anger, Loss of Control, Threats

    Unfortunately, the actions of males are more easily construed as violent, angry or abusive. You must pay particular attention to your impulses, softening your communication and mannerisms during this time. Do not speak or send anything to your ex that may be easily misinterpreted or demonstrates an inability to manage your anger. Don’t take to a social networking site to blow off some steam. These public posts can be easily documented and used against you and your case. Keep your emotions in check—it is best to assume that your ex is recording and documenting your conversations and interactions to use as evidence.

    Domestic Violence

    If you have been convicted of domestic violence, gaining custody will be more challenging, but you will likely be granted sufficient visitation if you can demonstrate that your child isn’t in any danger while in your care. Domestic violence and other abuse allegations are rampant in Family Court cases, so it is best to avoid any conflict where the facts could easily be distorted. If there’s a scheduled interaction such as an exchange, bring a witness with you or arrange to meet in a public location.

    Corporal Punishment

    These days, parents have lost custody of their children due to spanking or utilizing other forms corporal punishment. Although it may be considered legal in some states, corporal punishment is often seen as an inappropriate form of discipline and is frequently used against custody cases by being construed as child abuse. If your discipline includes spanking or physical repercussions, stop immediately and use alternative discipline techniques.

    Drugs, Alcohol, Irresponsible Lifestyle

    Withdraw from using any recreational drugs, excessive alcohol consumption or boasting an irresponsible lifestyle. A Judge may determine that a parent who drinks irresponsibly or is frequently out “partying” has a diminished capacity to care for a child or a tendency to be more neglectful. It’s imperative to adjust your lifestyle and engage in more benign activities while your custody case is pending. If your custody case is high-conflict, even a casual glass of wine every night can be misconstrued as irresponsible.

    Dating and New Relationships

    Use caution when dating during a custody dispute. Depending on the presiding state, Family Courts have varying perspectives about introducing a new romantic or living partner into the mix during custody dispute. While the child is in your care, the traditional advice is to not have sleepovers until the court makes a ruling. If you have developed a serious relationship with a new partner, be able to demonstrate that it is stable and healthy for your child to be exposed to. For your child’s sake, take it slow when introducing this new partner to your child’s home and daily life.

If you aim to secure the best custody arrangement for your child, it’s critical to prepare yourself thoroughly. Regardless of how good a parent you are or how unfit the other parent is, you must be able to provide credible and compelling evidence. For advanced strategies on presenting effective evidence and witness testimonies, please refer to Evidence Strategies for Child Custody.

Note: If a custody evaluation is ordered by the court, you should be cooperative, honest, and efficient. For detailed information on preparing, read American Bar Association: Client Preparation for Custody Evaluations and Court-Ordered Mediation

 

NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. All material and content on custodysimplified.com is meant for informational purposes only and not intended to serve as (or be a substitute for) legal, financial, medical and/or tax advice. Use of the information and/or materials as a basis for any legal, medical, or financial decision by the user/visitor, done strictly at the user/visitor’s sole risk. No warranties or representations of any kind are made to the user or visitor regarding the information and/or materials. No responsibility or liability is assumed by Fathers’ Rights Simplified, Fathering Families, LLC, it’s employees or affiliates. Laws may change over time and differ in your County, State, or Country. It is recommended that you seek counsel of a qualified attorney before taking any action.

(Part 2) Child Custody Book Released in Support of Equal Parenting Rights and the Importance of Fathers

The following is Part 2 of the full transcript from my interview with a local newspaper in Asheville, NC. This newspaper has over 75,000 readers every week and 800 locations throughout Western North Carolina.

*For the privacy of Erik’s Family and the Son’s Mother, the Author’s last name has not been used in any content. No person’s actual name has referenced throughout our articles or custody guides.

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What other advice do you have for parents?

Unless there are considerable issues that negatively impact the child, I highly recommend parents develop a shared parenting plan rather than going to court. If the Family Court in your jurisdiction have a preference for shared custody, convincing the judge to grant you more than equal time will require considerable proof that it’s in the child’s best interest. This may also increase your expenses exponentially and keep you in the legal process far longer.

Are fathers at an automatic disadvantage when it comes to custody disputes? How?

Men who are approaching a custody dispute may have to live up to a higher standard of behavior. These disputes can ignite some heavy emotions and frustrations in any parent. One angry email or attempt to have firm boundaries can be blown up and presented to the court in an attempt to frame you as a “bully” or a verbally abusive person, but most judges require stronger evidence that demonstrates a pattern of this behavior. According to some attorney’s, a man’s behavior and communication is more often misconstrued as hostile. Fathers need to be especially mindful of their behavior and tone during a dispute.

Another perceived disadvantage is that unmarried fathers must first establish their parental rights over the child before custody matters can be addressed by the courts. Since the mother physically gave birth, her parental rights will automatically be recognized and protected. One simple way to establish paternity is to have your name listed as the biological father on your child’s birth certificate or signing an acknowledgment of paternity after the child is born. If paternity is contested it can be determined by the court via a hearing and/or genetic testing.

I have heard heartbreaking stories from fathers in other states where the bias against a father’s capability still lingers in Family Courts, but as more fathers insist on being a part of their child’s life, I think this will begin to shift.

What are some of the psychological and emotional barriers that challenge fathers when they are seeking fair custody arrangements?

Current studies show that mothers still receive primary custody more often, but these studies may not be accounting for the fact that men are still less likely to request custody due to the limiting belief that they cannot win or merely cannot afford to do so. Most of the general public I interviewed during my research agreed that equal custody is preferable, but these same people believe the legal system is still biased, and that perception keeps many fathers at bay.

If a father fears that a judge might be biased, he may settle for any arrangement that offers some time with their child, just to avoid going to court. It’s all too common that a father signs off on an unfair arrangement early on, but this can hurt his chances of securing a more fair arrangement in the future. Children need their fathers to insist on being a significant part of their lives as early as possible.

Who else has supported Fathering Families?

While navigating my own legal process, I discovered a similar heartbreaking custody case that involved Hollywood actor, Jason Patric, who is fighting to be in his son’s life. His organization, Stand up for Gus, aims to raise awareness on the prevalent and damaging effects of Parental Alienation, which he is currently enduring. His organization supports Fathering Families through their strong network.

I also received advice from attorneys that advocate for Fathers’ Rights and shared parenting. Norma Tillman, President of the Tennessee Association of Licensed Private Investigators, was a huge inspiration to me and is now a supporter of the custody guide book. Norma is a successful author of five books and Private Investigator who has helped countless children reconnect with their fathers.

What are your thoughts about the Fathers’ Rights Movement?

When I first started writing this guide book, I found that “Fathers’ Rights”, by nature, was creating divide and did not align with my values of shared parenting. This guide book series that specifically assists fathers during a custody dispute is titled, Fathers’ Rights Simplified, but I’ve developed the organization, Fathering Families, to align with the ongoing resources being developed to help fathers stay connected to their children and learn how to effectively co-parent.

I also feel that many Fathers’ Rights groups tend to focus on the unjustness of the Family Court, instilling fear that the system will eat you alive. There’s always room for improvement, but this kind of cyclical and cynical view of the Family Court tends to deter men completely from seeking help of the courts. It is my hope that more focus is put towards educating parents on how they can amicably come to a resolution that honors both parents and truly benefits the well-being of their child. Although I am an advocate for dedicated fathers, I believe both parents should have liberal time with their child if they are able to provide a healthy environment, physically and emotionally.

Click here to read Part 1 of the interview transcript.

Child Custody Book Released in Support of Equal Parenting Rights and the Importance of Fathers

The following is Part 1 of the full transcript from my interview with a local newspaper in Asheville, NC. This newspaper has over 75,000 readers every week and 800 locations throughout Western North Carolina.

*For the privacy of Erik’s Family and the Son’s Mother, the Author’s last name has not been used in any content. No person’s actual name has referenced throughout our articles or custody guides.

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What issues and subjects does Fathers’ Rights Simplified address that other custody guides do not?

I found that the majority of custody guides cover the broad field of child custody and very little on gathering credible evidence that is vital to a custody dispute. When reading these books during my initial research, I couldn’t reach the level of confidence I desired as a father entering a custody dispute with my child’s future on the line. I was seeking a more concrete approach with current issues and strategies to prepare myself for trial. Enduring a child custody dispute is such an overwhelming experience and the pressure to understand the whole legal process in less than a year can push you to the edge. So, instead of writing a book on all the elements of Family Law, I focused on straightforward steps a parent can take to immediately prepare for their case.

Before retaining my Family Law attorney, I consulted with three other attorneys to learn about fathers’ rights, the legal process, and preparing for trial. During these consultations, they consistently mentioned these “factors” that Family Court judges assess when determining the best interests of the child. Behaviors they like to see parents exhibiting and what can raise red flags. Through my consultations and research of hundreds of case studies, I developed a list of common factors that will either improve or hinder a parent’s likelihood of winning child custody.

Evidence Strategies for Child Custody offers preparation strategies that are centered around the criteria commonly used by Family Court judges. I call this criteria, the “Child Custody Factors”, and once you understand them, you are in better position to effectively gather and organize evidence relative to your case. The book further simplifies the process by outlining what types of evidence are considered credible and persuasive–something that most parents don’t have any clue about.

Is there a changing perception of parental roles that has created a demand for this book?

Yes. The social norms which assume the father to be the breadwinner and deem the home as the mother’s domain are now becoming outdated. We’re seeing a rise in stay-at-home-dads and scenarios where both parents work and take care of the children equally.

Family Courts are recognizing that a parent’s gender does not define their parental roles and capabilities. When making a custody ruling, most Family Court judges are now utilizing a gender-neutral standard, which assesses the child’s best interest. Providing this level ground for parents in a child custody dispute has empowered more fathers to step forward and request joint custody over their child.

The myth that mothers are biologically “better parents” is being challenged more than ever, as the amassing statistics of fatherless-children are demonstrating serious disadvantages and developmental effects, which carry through into adulthood. There has been a recent growth in organizations that advocate for equal custody arrangements and co-parenting plans that support the child in building strong connections with both parents.

When approaching a custody dispute, fathers are realizing that the argument claiming that a father’s parental capabilities are inferior to a mother’s is a weak one. As the divide between parental roles and responsibilities continues to blur, many are recognizing the true value of involved fathers and the tremendous benefits a child receives.

Do you think there is a changing cultural perception of masculinity that has created a generation of fathers who demand to be more involved and a change in the status quo?

Family dynamics have been shifting, which have ultimately affected society’s perception of masculinity and a man’s ability to be a caretaker. However, after many decades of custody rulings that offered fathers only limited time with their children, labeling this quality time as “visitation”, our society still marginalizes fathers as caretakers, either praising them for taking on basic parenting tasks or wondering what happened to their career. Many fathers are now speaking up about the frustrations that come from these stubborn societal expectations and how they no longer apply. When a father is caring for his children, it should be seen as parenting, not “babysitting”.

Countless studies have been published, finding fatherless children to be at least 2-3 times more likely to runaway, abuse drugs, become depressed, be a victim of abuse, or engage in early sexual activity or criminal activity. With these alarming statistics on the rise, it’s becoming more apparent that a man’s contribution as a loving parent is crucial component to a developing child and our society.

What inspired you to create this online resource and write this series?

My initial research on child custody was out of necessity for my own situation, but given the amount of resources and knowledge that I amassed, I quickly realized I could help other parents avoid some unnecessary expenses and not become overwhelmed in the preparation process. My professional work was already in the field of consulting and helping authors self-publish, so applying that to my own experience only made sense.

During my research on fathers in child custody disputes, I was astounded by the effects a father-absent home can have on a child and the rate at which they exist in our society. Making matters worse, I was shocked to discover custody guides that actually encouraged immoral strategies to undermine fathers. Instead of focusing on deceptive strategies, Evidence Strategies for Child Custody helps dedicated fathers counter malicious tactics and assists them in presenting a case that demonstrates their active involvement and commitment as a parent.

Before I filed for custody, I reached out to the greater community and learned that many parents shared similar experiences of disputes after a separation or divorce. While seeking the advice of other parents, I was told that the Family Court judges in Buncombe County valued a father’s involvement and supported equal parenting. I was curious to see how cases were handled first hand and sat through numerous custody hearings before my own trial.

When witnessing families cycle through the Buncombe County Family Courtroom, I did not witness a bias towards either parent, but rather the judges commended parents who put their personal issues aside so that the best interests of their child came first. In contrast, I saw how parents who slandered or made unnecessarily inflammatory remarks about the other parent put their intentions in question. Unless there was clear evidence that demonstrated a child was in danger, the judges gave the parents every opportunity to work out a parenting plan before heading to trial. I believe the Buncombe County Family Court is a good model for how Family Courts can value shared parenting, the importance of fathers, and recognize the tremendous benefits this has on our children and communities.

To further prepare, I read countless case studies on child custody. I discovered that lies and false accusations are rampant in Family Court, often clouding the most important issues in a case and delaying a judge’s ability to determine the best interests of the child. I learned quite a lot about different types of evidence, what’s credible, and how to organize it properly for trial. At the conclusion of our hearing, my attorney turned to me with a smile and said, “I’m going to offer you a job”.

Is this book only for fathers?

Although it’s written from a father’s perspective, the Custody Factors are not gender specific and the evidence strategies can be applied by either parent. The book can help any parent properly prepare for a custody dispute without having to learn the entire legal process. In my case, having the right evidence organized for trial made my attorney’s job much easier during every phase of the case. Regardless of how good a parent you are or how unfit the other parent is, you must be able to demonstrate it by providing credible and compelling evidence.

Click here to read Part 2 of the interview transcript.

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