Custody rights have been biased towards the mothers for too long on the premise that mothers are better caretakers. However, this notion has been challenged by many fathers, who believe they are equally capable of providing and nurturing the children. Presently child custody rights are awarded to the parent better equipped to take care of the child or children. As per the US Census Bureau report, 15% of custody rights have been granted to fathers in 2004, and the percentage has been increasing since then.
Father's Rights in Child Custody Cases
According to New York State, it is mandatory to demand for custody while applying for a divorce. Although custody may be awarded to one parent, under the provisions of the Child Support Standards Act, children under the age of 21 must be supported by both parents. However, different states have different rules and regulations that govern custody rights for the father as well as the mother.
In the 2004 O'Donnell-Lamont case, the court affirmed an Oregon statute based on the presumption that the parents have to act in the child's best interests. This presumption had to be met prior to applying for custody, thereby giving equal rights to both parents for demanding custody.
A father petitioning for custody rights must know that the primary concern of the court and social services department is to determine how the child's best interest can be served. For that, most courts look into the following few points (may sound very basic, but helps determine its ruling):
- The parent's mental and physical capacity to raise children.
- Who is the child's primary caregiver between both parents?
- Who decides on the child's social interaction activities?
- Who decides and takes the first step towards handling an emergency?
- Who helps the child accomplish daily tasks, like getting up, getting to school, etc.?
- Which parent is in better financial health?
As a divorce is a traumatic period for a child, especially younger children, as they do not understand the reason for a relationship breaking down, the court mostly assigns a psychologist to ensure that the child has some semblance of routine and order amidst the divorce phase. If the child is grown up and capable of an opinion, most courts do take their need and desires in consideration.
As a father seeking custody, one should know that there are two types of custody, viz., physical and legal. Physical custody is often mistaken as a 50-50 living arrangement of the child between and with both parents. It is actually a reference to the child's living arrangement. Legal custody gives the parent the right to make major decisions for the child, which can include education, health, etc. In sole custody, both physical and legal rights lie solely with an individual parent, whereas in joint custody both parents have the right to make the decision jointly.
Fathers who do not get sole custody should be aware that if for some reason they have missed paying child support, it does not become a reason to remove your child custody rights. Child support is not a fee to see your child. However, any misconduct on your part with the child or the mother could be determinant in losing child custody permanently, unless the courts decide otherwise.
With the help of the 2006 Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, a father can now establish the ill effects that the mother's second hand smoking can have on the child. Hence, this act increases the chances of a father in winning the custody of his child. But this can also be used the other way round.
As rights of a father gain ground, it is imperative to understand that the child's interest has to be best served, for it is they who have to live with the trauma of separated parents. As a father or a mother, it is best if both decide whether a sole or a joint custody would ensure a happy and a healthy life for their child. As each state has different rules, it is best to consult an attorney before going ahead with any proceedings.