Fathers often face an almost built-in obstacle when fighting for custody. In spite of recent advances in granting fathers custody, mothers still win the majority of cases. And rightfully so. Although the “tender age” doctrine has mostly been replaced with “the best interest of the child,” traditional family roles tend to make that interest the mother.
The younger your daughter, the more likely the mother is the primary caregiver, responsible for feeding, staying up nights, bathing, and putting Jill to bed. The mother is also more likely to take time from work to care for a sick Johnny or take him to a dental appointment. Therefore, the mother becomes the parent Johnny looks to for daily needs and emotional support.
That plays heavily into the mother’s favor and proves easier “best interest of the child” for the courts.
As Johnny gets older, fathers often take a more active role in his life, as they become more independent and grow away from mom a bit (this is especially true of boys, but can actually be the opposite with girls).
The primary caregiver, be it the mother or father, has the upper hand in a custody case, but it’s usually the mother. And that makes sense. After all, after the divorce, someone will be taking on those daily tedious responsibilities, and the new stresses will be enough for you and Jill without you having to learn a bunch of other daily chores—not to mention dealing with the inevitable and possibly constant mantra, “Mommy doesn’t do it that way.”
So What is a Dad to Do?
I recommend that the father give up the traditional mother/father roles we tend to slide into in a married nuclear family, and start focusing on becoming a “Mr. Mom.” A dad who has been actively involved in Johnny’s daily upbringing since the early years has a much better chance of winning a custody case than one who has allowed the mother to handle them. I am not asking you to go overboard like Michael Keaton did in the 1983 movie Mr. Mom, but do become more involved than you probably are now.
Take Jill to the doctor. Pickup Johnny from band practice. Pack their school lunches. Sit down and read Jill bedtime story. Buy the kids clothes. Quiz Johnny on his spelling words. Be a parent volunteer at their school holiday parties. It doesn’t require you to become a stay-at-home dad, but you should be dealing with those issues either on a part-time basis, or take on some of the daily responsibilities.
Being Mr Mom Increases Custody Chances Dad
For me, I did it all. I had my own diaper bag, hopped in the pool for swim lessons, attended doctors visits, put together a great baby’s room. Over time I went from playing Mr. Mom to becoming Mr. Mom. This shift changed my life. By the time Caitlyn was four, I became the custodial parent. Even today, 11 years later, I am much more involved dad then I probably initially would have been.
Being Mr. Mom will help you when trying to get your child’s custody. It will also make you a better dad.
What custody tips would you add for dads seeking custody?
Mr. Mom pic © 1983 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. via Wiki Commons.