I’ve represented a lot of men in custody and divorce cases in Alabama. Fathers often want (and deserve) sole or joint physical custody of their children. However, problem arises when they’ve been the primary breadwinner to allow the mother to stay at home with the children. The daily family routines place at home – and knowing and doing all – and father going to work to support the financial needs of the family. A Father’s absence from the home is often used against him in custody battles. Yet, it was his absence that allowed for the mom to stay at home. And it was the mom staying at home that allowed for the father to invest more time at work.
A WORKING FATHER’S PENALTY
When the Father asks the judge for custody – he’s penalized for not doing all the things a stay at home mom does. The father shouldn’t penalized in custody decisions simply because he was necessarily unable to do a lot of the child care because he was the one financially providing for the family. The father’s job payed for their clothes, shelter, food, activities, toys, and whatever else was enjoyed by the family. The Father’s job made it possible for the mom to stay at home.
To use the father’s absence because of work is simply not fair nor equitable in these custody decisions. It took both parents to make that child and raise the family. It took jointly working together to ensure that the children were provided for – whether that was through finances or day-to-day living. When the marriage is dissolved, it will still take both parents to raise the children, albeit in separate households.
There are no guarantees when it comes to these matters. I’ve unfortunately seen wonderful fathers who were completely involved in their children’s lives not get custody because some judges still believe only the mother should have custody. For that, I’m truly sorry for the father and for the children.
- When the judge is determining how to award custody, she looks at who has been the primary caregiver of the children.
- The judge will look at things like who got up with the infant during the night, changed diapers, fed them, who takes them to the doctor, who’s involved in parent-teacher conferences, who helps with homework, who gets them to/from school and other activities, and who is overall involved in their day-to-day lives.
- Do you know their teachers’ names or the subjects they take in school?
- What video games do they like?
- Who are their friends and what are their names?
- In a situation in which the mother is a stay-at-home mom, she’s of course doing the majority of these things. That was kind of the deal wasn’t it?
HOW TO PREPARE
- If you want custody, it is essential to know things about your child’s life and be a part of her life. The following are suggestions to prepare for a custody battle.
- Find out her teacher’s name. Contact the teacher and ask about your child at school. Find out about grades, attitude, areas of weakness, areas of strength. Stay in touch with the teacher to keep track of your child’s progress. Attend parent-teacher meetings. Attend school events with your child. Even the boring ones! My father HATED my band recitals. He came to most, didn’t come to others. I remember the ones he didn’t come to. Don’t give your child that memory.
- Attend the IEP meeting (if your child has one). I once had a client with special needs child. He wanted custody but didn’t even know what an IEP was let alone attended any of the meetings. That will not win you custody.
- Take your child to her next doctor’s appointment. Know the name of her pediatrician. Review her medical records. Know what medications she takes. You have the right to do this.
- Have lunch at school with your child. Show up at school, sit with your child, meet his friends and create a memory for your child. I do not recommend doing this for middle or high school kids!!
- Help your child with his homework at night. Offer to help. Ask him what questions he has about it.
- Spend quality time with your child. Do things your child enjoys doing – even if it’s playing video games. Let your child help you fix things around the house or join you in an activity you enjoy (fishing, hunting, hiking, etc).
- Ask your child about her friends. What are their names? Why are they friends? What kinds of things do they do together?
- Attend your child’s sporting events or other extra-curricular activities. Involved in dance? Go to her classes and recitals. Involved in football? Go to his practices and games. Talk with the teachers, instructors, or coaches about your child.
These are not effective if implemented AFTER a divorce is filed. These are most effective if put into practice well before the divorce is filed or custody battle commences. Becoming “super dad” after a divorce is filed won’t win you custody.
Be involved in your child’s life. This will help you with custody but also help foster the relationship between you and your child and create great memories.
Comment below if you found this helpful or if you have some other suggestions for fathers.
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(no representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than those performed by other lawyers)