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.
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.