If you are a divorcing, or divorced, father who is seeking custody, you might feel as though you are at a disadvantage to your soon-to-be ex-wife by virtue of the simple fact that she is the mother and you are not. The good news is times are changing, and more and more fathers are receiving joint or sole custody.
Still, you may feel convinced that divorce laws are biased against fathers. I am not here to argue that point. Instead, what I want to do is outline the ways in which a father who desires custody, as opposed to visitation, can optimize his chances of receiving it. Bottom line—before a court grants anyone custody, father or mother alike, certain conditions must exist.
Regardless of whether you are a father or mother, your only hope of receiving custody is if you can demonstrate that having it is in the child’s best interests; that means making all decisions with the child’s happiness, security, emotional health, and mental health in mind.
It is generally in the child’s best interest to maintain a loving relationship with both parents; but, practically speaking, certain circumstances may get in the way of that.
Now, I don’t want to make it seem as if fathers who seek custody face all the same issues as mothers do. They do not. Due to traditional familial roles, fathers may have added challenges that are unique to them, including how many hours per week they spend at their jobs, how much they travel for work, and how parenting roles between them and their spouse were allocated during the marriage.
Even so, gaining custody is not only possible—but also likely—if you recognize a few key issues:
The first issue is parental alienation.
If you are a father dealing with a mother who is alienating your children against you—or, at a minimum, being uncooperative—it is imperative for you to not play into such behavior, and enlist the help of a lawyer immediately. A parent who consistently alienates a child against the other parent is not creating an environment that is conducive to the child’s best interests. The longer you wait to curtail this behavior, the harder it will be for you to overcome it. In the meantime, speak nicely to your spouse when requesting additional time, and keep accurate records of your requests.
The second issue is your work schedule.
Even though more women are working outside the home than ever before, if your work week is such that it interferes with your parenting time, it is important that you create a custody schedule that includes those times when you can be with your children. That means spending time with your kids on weekends, holidays, and—depending on the children’s ages—during the evening hours, whenever possible.
The third issue is the quality of the time you spend with your kids.
Once you have time to spend with your children, now you must make an increased effort to spend quality time with them, even if you have not done so in the past. Bond with your children, and make them a priority when you are together. It is never too late to start. Not leaving your kids with grandparents, babysitters, and daycare providers when it is your turn to be with them will go a long way toward showing how invested you are in being granted the custody you want.
At the end of the day, when it comes to seeking custody, the best thing to do is use your common sense. If what you are doing doesn’t seem like it would be best for your children, then it probably isn’t.
Written by Stacey Freeman
Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman's Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.