When a couple divorces, one of the most contentious issues to be resolved is child custody. In recent years, more and more fathers are seeking custody of their children, and the courts are increasingly awarding custody to fathers. There are several factors that the courts consider when making a custody determination, including the parents’ ability to provide for the children and their ability to make decisions in the children’s best interests.
However, women still receive child custody more often than men, especially in cases where the couple does not live together or in cases where they never married.
This is a good time for a summary of the two sides: Women again receive custody more often when they never married the father, when they live separately, or when fathers don’t push for custody. The reasons are often financial and logistical: Women are still more likely to be the caregivers of children even when both parents work outside the home. Fathers who want custody should start by looking at their own lives and figuring out how they can make themselves the best possible parents.
For example, they can spend more time with their kids, try to provide the same stability that the children would have had if they were living with their mother, and get involved in school activities.
Getting custody even if the couple lives together
This section brings up the idea of more fathers getting custody even when the couple is still together.
Now, on to more unusual cases. As more women enter the workforce, it becomes less likely that they will automatically get custody of their children after a divorce. More and more often, both parents receive joint custody (physical and legal custody) and must work out for themselves who can spend what time with the kids. When this happens, we see some interesting changes in parenting style. Some men, now that they have the chance to be hands-on fathers are better at being parents than women can be when they have sole custody.
On the other hand, some women take advantage of their time alone with the children — without a spouse to answer to or help them out — and let their kids run wild. And many women who never considered themselves very good parents suddenly find themselves loving and caring for their kids in a way they had not expected. When these women get joint custody, some of them struggle to share the parenting with their spouses, while others struggle to step up and be what their children need.
Experienced family law attorneys agree that joint custody is best, but it does require a lot of effort.
The first thing to keep in mind is that joint custody is a huge change from the way many people grew up. In years past, fathers were generally absent from their children’s lives after divorce and only saw them during visitation time. Fathers who want joint custody need to become involved with their kids from day one and be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to raise them.
Second, joint custody requires that both parents be able to work together. This is not always easy, especially when there are hard feelings involved. If you and your spouse cannot get along, joint custody is probably not a good idea for you.
Third, joint custody can be tough on the kids. They may have to switch homes, schools, and friends frequently. It can be hard to keep up with everything when your life is constantly changing.
Fourth, joint custody requires a lot of cooperation from both parents. If one parent decides not to follow the agreement, it can be difficult for the other parent to get them back in line.
Finally, joint custody is not always possible. If one parent moves a long distance away, for example, it may not be easy to continue sharing custody.
Addressing child custody matters
Child custody matters should be addressed as early as possible. The best time to settle on a parenting plan is right after you separate from your spouse when emotions are still running high, and the situation seems totally hopeless. It’s a good idea for parents who were never married to talk about custody matters before their child is born or even conceived. A father should ask the mother whether she intends to keep the baby and, if so, what role the father will have in the child’s life.
These conversations are not easy, but they are very important. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan, you will have to go to court and let a judge decide for you. This is not something either of you will enjoy, and it can be expensive and time-consuming.
It is much better to try to work things out yourselves. If you cannot agree on a parenting plan, you may want to consider mediation — a process where a neutral third party helps you reach an agreement.
If you and your spouse are considering joint custody, it is important to talk to a lawyer and get all the facts. It would be best if you made sure that both of you are able to handle the responsibility and that it is in the best interest of your children.