As a father entering the legal system, you can take steps to strengthen your case in a custody battle. In some cases, both parents have equal parenting time and shared decision-making power. Even so, one parent is usually the primary custodian, and you may want to be that person.
Fathers traditionally have a bad reputation in a divorce. We are all familiar with the stereotype of the “deadbeat dad.” Even though the law is designed to be gender-blind, judges can still enter a divorce trial with built-in biases, and this can make it harder for good men to receive the primary custody they deserve.
In this article, we will broadly discuss steps you can take to build a strong argument in a custody dispute.
- Develop a Parenting Plan
When fathers are seeking custody of their children, developing a specific parenting plan can greatly increase their chances of success. A parenting plan is a document that outlines the details of how the children will be cared for.
Good plans include schedules, routines, and responsibilities for each parent. The more specific they are, the better. For instance, they should include specific times and locations for visitation pickups and drop-offs. An effective parenting plan provides a clear framework for co-parenting after the divorce is finalized.
Your plan should also outline the children’s needs, and it should include plans for addressing those needs. The parenting plan should address issues like healthcare, education, and extracurricular activities.
Having a detailed, carefully planned document can help show the court that:
- You care
- You are involved
- You are organized
- You are thinking about the kids and putting them first
- Attend All Meetings Related to the Divorce
When going through a child custody battle, fathers must be proactive in attending all court hearings and other related meetings. This means showing up on time and being fully prepared, as well as demonstrating a vested interest in the child’s well-being.
Active involvement communicates your commitment to being an involved, responsible parent. It sends the message that you are genuinely invested, and you are focused on nurturing and supporting the child's growth and development. Proactive involvement shows that regardless of any legal challenges, you are there for your kids.
- Prepare for Interviews, Depositions, or Psychological Evaluations
Be ready with answers to common questions. Such questions include:
- What are your parenting beliefs?
- What are your parenting practices?
- Describe your relationship with the child.
- How do you uphold the child's best interests?
- How does your work life affect your ability to parent?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the parents?
- How do your outside relationships impact your parenting?
- Can you provide an opinion on either party's right to custody?
- What are your personal feelings and thoughts about the custody situation?
It’s important to strike a balance when answering these questions. On one hand, you want your answers to be “good,” and you want to give responses that will help you. On the other hand, your interviewer can tell if you’re being phony. Make sure you are speaking from the heart.
Most importantly, make sure you are always focused on your child’s best interests. Custody isn’t about what you want. It’s about what they need. If you truly know that retaining custody is best for the kids, explain why in reasonable, honest, down-to-earth terms.
- Gather evidence of Your Financial Stability and Parenting Capabilities
Financial evidence can come in many forms, such as:
- Bank statements
- Proof of employment
- Records of your spending habits
- Testimonies from friends and family
Parenting skills are showcased through:
- Others’ testimonies
- Having a safe, clean home
- Being actively involved in your child's life
- Having a good relationship with the child’s teachers and doctors
- If Necessary, Gather Evidence of Abuse or Neglect
Sometimes, getting custody is necessary for protecting the children from a dangerous parent. As a father, you will need strong evidence to prove that the mother is endangering the children.
Such evidence includes:
- Medical records
- Pictures of injuries
- Witness statements
- Evidence of poor home conditions
- Screenshots of threatening messages
- Statements from professionals who have reported concerns about the child's welfare
Find an Experienced Attorney
It isn’t always easy to ask for help, but you must understand the importance of hiring a legal professional who can guide you through the child custody process.
An experienced attorney understands the unique challenges that fathers face in family court. Having legal representation will better equip you to fight for your rights, and it can help secure an agreement that is best for the kids.
Law Office of Tzvi Y. Hagler, P.C. is here to provide valuable legal advice and help fathers navigate the complexities of the legal system. We want to help you prepare for court proceedings.