There was a time when a father had little to no shot at gaining custody of their biological child. Back then, mothers were always viewed as superior caregivers, and courts figured it was in the child’s best interest to remain with the mother. Thankfully, such biased thinking is no longer the case. Updates in child-rearing and psychology have proven both fathers and mothers can have a necessary and positive impact on their children.
Today courts prefer to allow both parents to maintain custody through shared custody agreements. However, as any divorce attorney will tell you, it is challenging for many couples to determine an arrangement that works best for the child. In challenging cases, a judge will still be the decider, if necessary, and they will weigh the pros and cons of both parents to determine a fair and healthy arrangement for the child. As a father, however, there are still a few things you should be aware of.
If you were married when you had your child, the argument of paternity is mostly moot because the court will assume the child was the product of the marital relationship. Unfortunately, if you were not married when your baby was born, paternity gets a little more complicated.
Proving you are the father can be as simple as you and the mother signing and filing an acknowledgment of paternity. While this sounds reasonable and easy, if you are in the midst of a contentious divorce, it is not unheard of for a mother to use paternity as a bargaining chip. A judge will often not put up with such games, demanding a paternity test to prove you are the father.
Remember, you need to prove paternity to obtain custody. Marriage can make the process a bit easier, even if it gets a bit chaotic, but it is challenging if you are an unwed father. Without biological proof, you will have no legal rights to custody or visitation.
Ultimately, the court will decide what the best custody arrangement for your child is. Therefore, you must do your best to demonstrate your aptitude as a parent, especially when seeking physical custody. You need to prove you can provide a safe and stable home. If you have a legal history, show how you have bettered yourself and are ready to care for your child.
Are you facing a child custody claim? Contact a local divorce attorney to discuss specifics and determine an effective strategy.