An overwhelming amount of research shows it is in the best interest of children to have equal time with each parent following divorce or separation.
Nonetheless, shared-parenting critics persist and by and large family courts do a poor job of establishing equal-custody arrangements.
However, there are steps fathers can take to increase their odds of achieving equal legal and physical custody.
Stay in the marital home
The first step is absolutely crucial. Even after a divorce is initiated, dads must insist on remaining in the marital residence.
It’s common for wives to ask their husbands to leave as they try to work through their problems, but Cordell & Cordell co-founder Joe Cordell has called this one of “The 10 Stupidest Mistakes Men Make When Facing Divorce.”
Once you move out, even if you only plan on leaving temporarily, Mom becomes the de facto primary custodian of the kids.
It also becomes more difficult to prove that you are an involved father when you’re not living with your children.
Even if your intentions are good and you’re just trying to give your spouse some space, there is a good chance the judge is going to view you as the one who gave up on the marriage and abandoned his family.
Sleep on the couch, avoid arguments with your wife, focus on the children. But DO NOT leave the marital home.
More than anything, you need to prove you’re a great dad.
Get involved with your child’s school and attend as many activities possible. Volunteer to take the kids to their piano lessons. Work with your child’s mother as much as possible to avoid scheduling conflicts and don’t get into arguments with her, even if she tries to start one.
Not only do you need to be involved, you need to prove you’re involved. That means collecting as much documented proof that shows you’re maintaining an active presence in your kids’ lives.
Start saving all texts and emails you have with your ex-spouse and the kids, and begin keeping a parenting time journal that logs all activities with your children.
All of this will show the court that you have what it takes to be a good co-parent and that you’re willing to sacrifice to make sure their best interests remain the top priority.
Avoid all conflict
This part might not be easy, especially if you have an uncooperative ex, but it is absolutely essential that you avoid getting into arguments with your child’s mother.
For one, it is harmful for kids when they are exposed to conflict during the divorce process. That should provide enough motivation in and of itself to try to get through the breakup as amicably as possible.
But your ex probably knows how to push your buttons and she might be the kind of person who tries to start an argument every chance she gets.
Take the high road.
If you have to, limit communication to text and emails (but make sure this doesn’t do anything to neutralize the role you’re playing as a father).
This might involve you biting your tongue from time to time, but it’s what is best for your kids and what’s best for your case. It will be worth it in the long run and your children will eventually notice that you were the one acting responsibly.
Hire a good attorney
Of course, it’s important you have someone in your corner who’s going to walk you through all the legal jargon and processes that will likely confuse anyone who doesn’t have a law degree.
You’ll want to make sure you find a lawyer who specializes in family law and has plenty of experience working child custody cases.
Do your homework to find an attorney you mesh with and who will ensure that your rights as a father are protected in court.
5 comments on “Custody Gameplan: Building A Case For Equal Custody”
Good advice, always keep your cool. Be the adult. Keep all texts and have a journal or use a calander to keep track of everything. Be very careful of attorneys, VERY. If you feel you cant afford then go on your own, you can do it!
You can be the best dad in the in the world, but if you are involved in a hostile custody battle like I was you will lose. When I got divorced our only asset was the house, I was involved in my child’s school like I was a member of the PTA, and I still lost my custody battle and it cost me 18K to find out how stupid family law is.
Same boat. I was every kids soccer coach in the town we lived in, and a volunteer with the children’s ministry at church. Almost $30K later, and people should have body guards or police escorts to be around me if you listened to the attitude about me, but yet not even an accusation of violence or aggression or anything untoward at all.
I wish I read this when she asked me to leave, I didn’t want to cause problems and fight in front of my kids. I just got my own place ( renting a room ) but I talk to my kid 2 3 times a day and I send alot of texts. And see her three times a week. But now I know it’s inportant that I keep a journal. We haven’t filed yet. Should I do it first are wait for her. Plus I really can’t afford a lawyer. Please help a dad with kids and she’s the one who called it quits
My impression of this, and the reality I experienced is that as a father you have to do what she wants to do, and if you don’t then you will lose access to your kids, and she will do what she wants to do. The courts in most states don’t see room for the parents to disagree, and then feel they need to remove normal conflict by giving one parent (usually mom) the control. As long as courts listen to arguments that don’t belong in court, fathers will continue to lose.