THE THREE P’s OF CHILD CUSTODY FOR FATHERS
I believe that parents should be forced to take an equal division of time in their children’s care. Fathers should be required by law to take their children 50% of the time. Mothers frequently withhold their children from the fathers based on the false perception that they are not nurturing enough. Courts tend to support this canard and the only way we will be able to change it is by men fighting for custody.
It is happening more often and as the studies are beginning to show, men are just as capable of being loving and nurturing parents as women. They simply have been denied the opportunity for too long. It’s the same argument that feminists made when it came to the workplace and equal pay. The alienating behavior is commonly masked as mom being “protective” – it’s bunk. We see this type of controlling behavior all too often in our practice, and it is a detriment to the father/child bonding.
It is understandable that when a child is young, they may need the mother for breastfeeding. But that is no excuse for a father to be denied solo parenting time. Frequently the mom claims that the father is not a good parent, or too immature, or too uneducated to provide for a newborn. I think those are weak arguments at best and disingenuous at worst. If a man is old enough to father a child, and to be required to pay child support, then he should be old enough to take up the mantel of parenting.
Today, as it stands, fathers who want to obtain, or increase, their visitation and custody orders need to keep in mind the following: Proximity, Paperwork and Persistence.
The Three Ps can make or break your chances of getting the orders issued by the judge. Most fathers start out a custody case at a disadvantage. When dad moves out, the children are left with mom, and that becomes the way the court is inclined to keep the situation. The moment that dad moves out of the family home is the moment that mom gains an advantage in child custody hearings. Here’s why – the courts don’t want to upset the children’s living environment. They focus on keeping the child stable, and that means in their historical home.
So how then does a man recover from the mistake of moving out of the house? He must show to the court that he can effectively parent the child, with as little disruption to the child’s routine as possible.
This means how far or close dad lives to the child’s home and school. This is a major factor in increasing, or acquiring custody and visitation. The closer dad is to the home and school, the more easily he can be present for the child, and the courts give this great weight. If the choice is for a child to be in a car for 5 minutes getting from mom’s home to school or a 25- minute drive from dad’s home, the court is going to prefer mom’s home. It is also more likely that the child’s friends and social network are close to the school they attend, which is a factor for the court.
Cases are won or lost on documentation. Dads should keep a calendar or a diary of all the time that they are with their child. In any contested case, mom has something that she will use to show the court how little time dad spends with the kids. A simple calendar which shows the days that dad took his child, and what they did on those days can make all the difference for a change in custody. If dad keeps the receipts for what he did with his child, it will allow his lawyer to prove that he took the child to see the movie “Cars” on a day when mom says he didn’t visit. This is a crucial credibility issue, and one that with a little bit of work by dad, can yield big gains. The court will see that dad is truthful, which goes a long way towards winning the credibility wars, which in turn can lead to more time with his child.
The biggest factor that affects whether or not a dad will win more visitation or even equal custody, is his ability to come back, time and time again. The successful dad in family court, is the dad who never gave up, and was willing to do whatever it took, no matter how difficult it was, or how long it took, to prove to the court that he wanted and was capable of being a loving, attentive, and present father. The successful dad who wants to increase his custody and visitation, will live close to his child, keep good records, and never give up when dealt a bad hand.
Society is changing, and as more men take up the duties of being a responsible parent, it will become easier for all fathers to have the custodial time and visitation they want with their children.