As a father, you have just as much of a right to custody of your children as their mother. Despite common misconceptions, there is no legal preference for moms over dads. However, as a father seeking all or a majority of parenting time and responsibilities, you will be put under a microscope. You may have to overcome deeply ingrained stereotypes such as fathers being less able to care for infants. To do this and show the judge it is in your children’s best interests to live with you, you should understand common pitfalls associated with dads seeking custody and how to avoid them.
Actions to Avoid as a Father Seeking Custody
If you are a father seeking all or a majority of parenting time and responsibilities in Illinois, consider avoiding these common issues:
- Moving out of the family home: If you move out of the home you share with your children’s mother and leave your children with her, it can sometimes be more difficult to drastically alter the situation. Think carefully before you choose to move out. If leaving is for the best, speak with an attorney first about getting a temporary parenting schedule in place.
- Agreeing to an unfair temporary custody schedule: At the beginning of a divorce or custody matter, you and your children’s mother may agree to a temporary parenting plan. You should not agree to just anything, particularly if your time with your kids would be drastically less than what you will request in court. However, this is also not the time for a drawn out battle. Speak with a child custody attorney right away to develop the best temporary schedule for your kids.
- Living in a bachelor pad: Sometimes moving out of the family home is your best option. However, unless you are on an extremely limited budget, refrain from moving into an overly small or less-than-child-friendly apartment. Where you live while you seek custody may be reviewed by the court, and it needs to be a place that is appropriate, safe, and welcoming for your children. You should also be careful not to keep too much alcohol around. The drinks you enjoy when relaxing after work can be misconstrued as a substance use disorder.
- Badmouthing your children’s mother: No matter your personal feelings about your children’s mother, you never want to speak badly about her in public or in front of your kids. Disparaging remarks can quickly get back to a judge and make you look bad. If you have complaints, voice them only in a private environment with trustworthy friends, family members, or counselors.
- Appearing aggressive or hostile: As a man, it is possible for your actions to be viewed as overly aggressive, intimidating, hostile, or even potentially violent if you become angry, distressed, or irritated. This includes using spanking and other physical punishments with your kids. Be careful to keep calm during difficult situations. Any actions that can be misconstrued by your children’s mother or the court as potentially violent or hostile could hurt your chances of primary custody.
- Involving a new romantic interest with your children: Your life does not stop simply because you are a parent. Judges and attorneys understand this. However, that does not mean dating a great deal or quickly involving a new romantic interest with your children will look good. Having a new girlfriend around your kids during a custody dispute could raise a red flag for the judge who is interested in providing your children with stability.
- Going back on your word: If you promise to do something for your children or their mother, keep your word. A judge will look to see if you are consistent and trustworthy. If you make plans with your kids or their mother then break them, this can make a judge question your readiness to parent full time.
- Refusing to co-parent: It can be difficult to work with your children’s mother, particularly if you two do not get along. However, you need to set personal differences aside and co-parent for the sake of your kids. Try and work with their mother to maintain the agreed upon custody schedule, provide your children stability, and be flexible when things come up.
Call a DuPage County Child Custody Lawyer for Help
It is crucial you understand both your rights as a father seeking custody in Illinois and the practicalities of doing so. At Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C., we can guide you through this process and help you avoid common issues fathers face during child custody matters. Call us today at 630-961-0060 to learn more.