Judges will typically award joint custody these days, especially when they believe the arrangement is in the best interests of the children. However, many fathers feel that the court is favoring the parental rights of the mom. For example, even when there is joint custody, the parenting arrangement may place the children with mom a disproportionately large amount of the time. This can make fathers feel like they are still fighting an uphill battle.
There is a lot of research out there that points out that children benefit from substantial amounts of time with both parents, including overnight stays, helping with homework and such daily tasks as making breakfast and getting kids off to school. It is also worth noting that many employers are more understanding these days about a father’s need for flexible hours to accommodate parental obligations.
Tips for how to be actively involved
The role that each dad plays and the family dynamic are unique, but these general tips can help to ensure that there is a balance between the two parents, with an attorney adding specific suggestions when custody and parenting plans are in dispute:
Stay in the house: It is best to stay in the house until there is a judge’s order to vacate the premises. Some may want to take the children with them, but it is best to leave them in the family home unless there is a valid safety concern.
Stay involved: Maintain the schedule you had as a married father, or become more involved with daily activities like carpools, school meetings, family events and sports activities. Also, make sure the schools, coaches, caregivers and doctors all have your information. If there are appointments regarding the children, be prompt and attentive. If mom attended all doctor appointments when married, you will need to step it up and become knowledgeable and involved.
Keep a calendar: It is especially helpful to keep accurate track of all parenting time and parent-oriented activities. This can even include a list of activities during that time. The more involved a father is, the stronger their argument is for custody and parental time.
Be accommodating: Protect your parenting time, but be as accommodating as possible and do not get caught up in unnecessary squabbles. This will also be good optics for the judge.
Speak with a family law attorney: An attorney with experience handling family law, divorce and custody matters here in California can be a great help to fathers wishing to remain actively involved in the lives of their children, particularly when there are issues in dispute.