There was a time when courts favored mothers over fathers when it came to parenting arrangements. Fortunately, most courts now recognize that both parents are equally important. Many studies show that fathers positively affect their children’s lives. Children who are close to their fathers experience less depression, do better in school and have more confidence.
Still, as a father getting divorced, you may have concerns. Perhaps you have heard horror stories from other fathers who did not receive sufficient parenting time. You owe it to yourself and your children to know your rights as a father. You may want sole custody, joint custody or simply ample parenting time. In any case, a judge will likely examine the following areas.
Stable home environment
Courts make custody decisions based on what is best for the children. The first level of this is supplying food, clothing, shelter and educational support. The good news is, if you were the provider in your marriage, you have likely been fulfilling those needs for years.
Judges may look at your work schedule, wanting to see that you can be home when the children need you. For continuity and consistency, courts often like children to remain in the same schools as before the divorce. Therefore, stay in the same neighborhood as the marital home if possible.
Involvement in children’s lives
The more involved you have been in your children’s lives prior to the divorce, the better. A judge will typically want that involvement to continue. It may help if you can show a history of coaching your children’s sports teams, participating in educational meetings and attending recreational activities.
If your children are old enough, they may have a say in custody arrangements. Be sure you have cultivated a positive parenting relationship with each child.
Other family relationships count, too. Courts may be reluctant to separate siblings, including half-siblings and step-siblings who get along well. A judge may also consider grandparents’ rights, especially in a multigenerational home.