Normally, a mother's right to custody of her child isn't questioned. But fathers may find that they have to go to court to get the same kinds of rights, and that they are not given the same consideration as mothers in some cases.
It's important that fathers understand their rights. This is especially true for unmarried couples who have children. But even married fathers who are going through a divorce may find that they're struggling to get the same consideration when it comes to custody of their children.
While courts and state laws have come a long way in equalizing the custody rights of fathers with those of mothers, there can still be discrepancies. The best thing a father can do is work with professional legal guidance, so he can be well-informed about the rights he has to his child.
Here's what to know about the custody process and how the rights of fathers may be affected.
The State You Live in Matters
While the child custody process is generally similar throughout the United States, there can be differences depending on what state you live in. If the father and mother live in different states, that can add to the complications of determining child custody.
Each state is responsible for setting the rules and laws surrounding child custody, so what would be acceptable or expected in one state might not be the normal procedure in another state. Shared custody across state lines may also be a complicated process.
Understanding the requirements of their state of residence matters for fathers who are interested in getting custody – or at least sharing custody – of their children. Additionally, they need to understand how they could be affected due to the state where the child was born, and if the mother and child live in another state.
Without knowledge of the laws surrounding custody and the steps they may have to follow, fathers can lose out on time with their children and may struggle with custody issues much longer than necessary.
Married or Unmarried Can Make a Difference
Whether a father was married to the child's mother at the time of the birth or not can matter when it comes to the child custody process. Some of that is state-specific, but unmarried fathers usually find that they have fewer immediate rights to their children overall.
If they want custody, they may have to work harder at that than a father who was married to the mother at the time the child was born or subsequently married the mother after the child was born. A custody arrangement as part of a divorce is often handled differently from a stand-alone custody dispute.
For fathers who aren't married to the mothers of their children, exploring their custody options and understanding the process are very important. However, it can sometimes be confusing. It also may change if the mother and child move to another state, or if the father moves out of their current state of residence but still wants custody.
The issue of location may seriously need to be considered because moving away could make it much harder for a father to obtain custody of his children.
Stability and Interest Affect Custody Decisions
The stability of the home the father can provide and the level of interest he has shown in his child both matter when it comes to custody decisions.
Fathers who have stable homes, stable employment, and have been in their child's life from the beginning may be more likely to receive custody or be granted shared custody. That's because these kinds of things indicate the father's intent to help make a good life for his child and show that he's committed to that child’s upbringing and the raising of them.
Working with a Good Attorney Can Help
One of the very best things a father who wants to get custody of his children can do is work with a legal professional who specializes in family law and works with child custody issues. With a trained and dedicated professional on his side, a father has a greater opportunity to get the help and support he needs.
The assistance of a family law attorney can give him the opportunity to get custody, or shared custody, of his children and help him navigate the legal process more easily.