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 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.
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What Are A Father’s Rights?
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 involved, both parties have equal opportunity to remain fixtures for their kids.
- Just like a mother, a father has the right to request primary guardianship.
- If he does receive custody, he also retains 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, and shelter.
- 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: Learn More About Child Custody
Custody exchanges can be tense times, especially if you and your ex are not on the best terms. There are ways to make these swaps easier for everyone.
- Make the trade at school, or at daycare or a babysitter’s.
- Meet in a public place where you both may be less inclined to make a scene.
- Bring a third party along for the encounter.
- It can even be as simple as making sure everything is packed up and ready to go in advance to cut down the amount of face time involved.
It’s important to keep things civil in these situations. If not for yourself, then for your kids. If often prevents emotions from running wild, it only benefits them.
Related Reading: Best Interest Of The Child
How To Ensure Your Rights As A Father
As the years pass by, 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 child 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 determine the best interests of the child. To establish this, the judge will examine a number of factors.
- This may include your abilities as a parent.
- Pre-existing relationships with your kids.
- physical and emotional health.
- Safety and more.
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 child 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.
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The Rights Of Unmarried Fathers
In some cases, it may be trickier to assert your rights as a father if you and your child’s mother weren’t married. In Oregon, however, unmarried parents have the same fathers’ 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, factors like:
- Ability to pay.
- The custody schedule.
These all figure into the amount. If you do not win custody, you may still be entitled to regular visitation. The court will also likely order you to provide child support.
Related Reading: Keys to Finding the Right Child Custody Attorney
Again, it serves your interest to take a proactive approach. If you want custody, file the appropriate paperwork and go after it. If you believe you are the best parent, this is something you may have to prove.
There may also be a discovery schedule established, where the court looks into the parenting abilities of each party and potentially talk to witnesses to get a feel for the situation.
It’s possible to work out a visitation schedule with the child’s mother, or you can leave it up to the court to decide. Either way, the judge will turn that into a custody and visitation order that lays out who gets the kids when, child support, and the like. The law requires both you and your ex to abide by this.
Related Reading: The Right of First Refusal
Make The Most Of The Time You Have
Being involved in your child’s life has a huge impact. It may be difficult to remain an influential presence after a divorce or split, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Regardless of which spouse gets primary child custody, make the most of the time you do get to spend with your kids. Whether this winds up being almost every night, or just a few days a month, you can continue to exert a positive influence as they grow up.
- Adhere to the custody agreement.
- If you’re ordered to pay child support, do it to the best of your ability.
- Don’t let petty squabbles and hurt feelings between you and your ex get in the way of your relationship with your kids.
- Lingering bitterness often proves a waste of energy.
- Keep the best interest and well-being of your children in mind at all times.
Know about fathers’ rights. If you’re going through a custody battle, or one looms on the horizon, it may be the smart move to consult an attorney. If you have any questions about your situation, feel free to contact the Portland offices of Goldberg Jones and we’ll be happy to discuss your case.
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