The common perception, whether it’s right or wrong, is that wives, mothers, and women have the upper hand when it comes to divorce and child custody.
It’s possible to throw around all manner of statistics and cite various expert opinions on the subject. The fact of the matter, however, is that, when it comes to the dissolution of marriage and guardianship, many men feel like they get the short end of the metaphorical stick, and that fathers’ rights get trampled in the process.
From a legal standpoint, mothers and fathers have the exact same claims. This should, in theory, give them an equal chance of being awarded primary custody.
That’s on paper. In reality, we’re all well aware that humans, which includes judges, often make emotional decisions and are biased in one way or another.
If you’re a father going through a divorce or custody battle, it’s important to know your rights and how to safeguard your interests and those of your children.
What Are A Father’s Rights In Oregon?
As we said, legally speaking, fathers have the exact same claims as mothers when it comes to child custody.
- Barring extreme circumstances, you have the right and responsibility to be a part of your child’s life on a regular basis and in a meaningful way. Basically, should you and your spouse divorce, if it involves children, both parties have equal opportunity to remain fixtures in their lives.
- Just like a mother, a father has the right to request primary guardianship.
- If he does receive custody, he also has the right to petition the court for appropriate child support from his former spouse. This may be used to help provide for expenses like food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities.
- If the courts don’t grant the father custody, he still has the right to see his children. This visitation will be reasonable and regular. In this scenario, you are also entitled to spend time with your kids free from interference by the custodial parent.
Related Reading: Best Interest Of The Child
How To Ensure Your Rights As A Father
In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis, publicly and in the courts, on making sure that both parents play an integral part in a child’s life after divorce or separation. It’s important that you remain involved in the upbringing of your kids. However, you may have to take steps to ensure this happens.
As already stated, you are equally entitled to custody during the divorce process. If you actively want primary custody, you have every right to pursue this goal.
You may need to prepare and file a petition for custody, provide information about the parents and child, and ultimately wait for the court to decide on your request. Oregon law also requires that all such petitions include a parenting plan.
When awarding custody, the court aims to serve the best interests of the child. To establish this, the judge examines a number of factors. This may include:
- Your abilities as a parent.
- Pre-existing relationships with your kids.
- Physical and emotional health.
If kids are old enough to have a preference, the court may take their testimony into account. However, if their wishes oppose their best interests, the court can ignore them.
In short, don’t be passive. If you want custody of your children or significant visitation rights, take an active approach.
It’s likely in your best interest to hire an attorney with experience working child custody cases. A lawyer will have insight into the process, as well as advice, both legal and practical, to lead to an optimal outcome for your case.
Related Reading: Enforcement Proceedings: How to Protect Custody Rights
The Rights Of Unmarried Fathers
In some cases, it may be trickier to assert your rights as a father. For instance, if you and your child’s mother never married. In Oregon, however, unmarried parents have the same rights as their legally bound counterparts.
If your paternity is established, and your name appears on the child’s birth certificate, you will be recognized as the legal father.
As such, just like if you were married, you and the mother have equal legal standing in the eyes of the law. You have just as much right to pursue primary child custody as your ex, regardless of marital status. Should you be awarded guardianship of your kids, you also have the right to petition for child support.
Similar to divorced or divorcing couples, the court considers factors like:
- Ability to pay.
- Custody schedule.
These all figure into the amount. Even if you do not win custody, you will most likely still be entitled to regular visitation. The court will also likely order you to provide child support.
Related Reading: Establishing Paternity In Oregon
Ways To Help Your Custody Case
You need to convince the court you’re best suited to be the primary custodian. It’s important to demonstrate your parenting ability and showcase what you bring to the table. With that in mind, here are some ways you can help your own child custody case.
Work With Your Ex
Like it or not, when you have kids, you’re going to have some contact with your ex.
Unless the health or well-being of your children is in danger, you’ll have to work together as co-parents on some level. You may not like it, but bite the bullet and collaborate with your ex.
Not only is it beneficial to the kids to have both parents involved in their lives, but this willingness to cooperate also helps your child custody case.
Related Reading: Parental Evaluations In Oregon
Stay Part of Your Child’s Life
It’s also vital to remain a part of your child’s daily life for a number of reasons. This strengthens the parent/child bond, it’s good for both of you, and it can help your case.
Spending time with your children on a regular basis shows you are and want to stay an involved parent.
Courts also try to avoid drastically shaking up a child’s routine when ruling on custody. When you’re already a big part of their life, it’s more likely to stay that way.
Related Reading: Unmarried Parents’ Custody Rights
Make Use Of Your Parental Rights
We see it all the time. People claim to want custody but don’t take advantage of it when they have the chance. While a case is in progress, the court often issues temporary custody orders. These grant regular visitation and the like.
Take advantage of time and opportunities the court gives you.
This includes big, fun special events, but also regular things, like helping with homework and going to doctor’s appointments.
It’s important for the kids that you’re present, but it also demonstrates you’re an involved parent who wants to be there for your children.
Two words can come in very handy in these situations: document everything.
If your ex sends you an email denying you a scheduled visit for flimsy reasons, save it. The same goes for voicemails, instant messages, texts, social media posts, and any other form of communication.
If you have concerns about your child’s safety in your ex’s care, document your reasons.
Keep a record of the time you spend with your kids. That way, if your ex claims you’re not an involved parent, you can prove otherwise.
Basically, whatever statements you make to the court about your ability as a parent, or your ex’s, collect as much solid evidence as you can to support your claims.
Related Reading: Common Child Support Questions
Don’t Interfere With Visitation
By this point, there’s likely ill will between you and your ex. Divorce tends to leave scars. But it’s important not to use custody situations for revenge.
If your ex has visitation scheduled, don’t interfere with it or stop it from happening.
First off, recognize that it benefits your kids to have both parents in their lives. Meddling makes you look petty, but it also has a wider impact.
If you complain about your ex hampering your own visitation, you can bet a judge will remember this you interfering with theirs. Acting like a rational adult only helps your custody case.
Don’t Trash Talk Your Ex
Again, you probably aren’t too fond of your ex right now. No one expects you to be best friends, but keep those feelings to yourself, especially around your children.
Be there for your kids and serve their best interests. Don’t use them as pawns in your custody dispute or try to turn them against your ex. Not only it is unhealthy for them, but if you try to manipulate them, it can damage your cause.
Focus on making yourself look good instead of making your ex look bad, you’ll get far more mileage out of that approach.
Related Reading: Do Criminal Charges Impact Child Custody Cases?
Hire A Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody disputes often become heated. Tempers flare and people react emotionally instead of thinking things through. There are also tons of details and complicated laws that play into custody decisions.
Because of all of this, it’s usually in your best interest to hire a child custody attorney, especially if your ex hired one. A knowledgeable professional helps keep things calm and guides you through the process.
Related Reading: Enforcement Proceedings If Your Ex Won’t Follow The Parenting Plan