Fathers' Child Custody Rights

As a father, you have the same parental rights as a mother, until a court says otherwise. What's more, a judge cannot consider a parent's gender when making custody decisions.

Still, some fathers agree to less-than-ideal parenting plans and schedules because they expect the court to favor their children's mother. The key to keeping your parental rights is to stand up for them.

The importance of a father's role

Your children need their father in their lives. Studies have shown that children with fathers who are actively involved in their lives are:

  • More likely to be successful in their education
  • Less likely to experience depression
  • Less likely to exhibit disruptive behavior
  • Less likely to lie and be dishonest
  • More likely to have high self-esteem
  • More likely to avoid drugs and alcohol

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Know what type of custody you want

Legal custody is the authority to make important decisions (medical, educational, etc.) regarding your children. Most parents share joint legal custody.

Physical custody refers to the actual care and residence of the children.

When parents have joint physical custody, they both spend time with their children frequently (but not necessarily equally). When the children live with only one parent, and that parent does the vast majority of caretaking, it's called sole physical custody. In this case, the other parent may have visitation with the children.

There are many reasons why one parent might get sole physical custody. It might be necessary because the other parent is abusive or neglectful, does drugs, has an unsafe home, etc. It may also happen because the other parent agrees to the arrangement.

If you're a good parent, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get joint physical custody. You just need to ask for it and prove how it would benefit your children.

On the same note, it makes no sense to fight for sole physical custody of your children unless you need to protect your children from their mother.

When deciding what type of custody you want, always prioritize what's best for your children.

Overcoming parental stereotypes

Despite laws that prevent gender discrimination, mothers get custody more often than fathers do. A study by Custody X Change in 2017 found that a U.S. father is likely to receive about 35 percent of parenting time.

One of the reasons is that judges in custody cases consider which parent has served as the primary caregiver. Judges don't want to yank a child away from the most significant person in their life.

Even if your children's mother has served as their primary caregiver, you can prove you've played an active role in their lives. Make it clear to the other parent and the judge that you want to remain deeply involved.

Preparing to get more time with your kids

Don't depend on the children's mother to divide parenting time fairly between you. To get the time you want with your kids, you need to be proactive and prepared. You need to be ready for anything that comes up, such as meetings with your ex, mediation, hearings and trial.

This is where Custody X Change can help. The app lets you take control of your child custody case by making a complete parenting plan that has:

When you create your custody agreement with Custody X Change, you simply follow the steps in the parenting plan template. The result is a clear and concise document that looks like it was made by a professional.

Custody X Change covers everything you need in your plan, so you don't have to worry about leaving anything out. Plus, you can add as many custom provisions as you want.

Using your availability to optimize your custody schedule

Before you make a custody schedule, consider your own availability. Be sure to think about work and other obligations that will prevent you from spending time with your kids.

Since you are creating your own schedule, you have flexibility. Here are some creative ways to spend more time with your kids if they live primarily with their mother:

  • Transport your children to or from school. You could offer to transport them every day or just a few days a week.
  • Pick your children up from day care. If you get off work before your ex, you might suggest that you pick them up from day care and she can pick them up from your house. It makes no sense to pay for day care when a parent is available.
  • Have dinner with your children. Choose one or two days during each week that the kids will come to your house after school. You can help them with their homework, eat together and get them back to their mother in plenty of time to get ready for bed.
  • Don't leave large gaps between parenting time. If you alternate weekends with your ex, be sure to get a few days around her weekend to spend with the kids. For example, schedule time with them the next Monday (and maybe Tuesday).
  • Use school breaks to your advantage. When school is out, it's a lot easier to spend more time with your kids. You can give yourself more parenting time during school breaks to take advantage.
  • Include a first right of refusal clause in your parenting plan. The right of first refusal means each parent will offer the other additional parenting time before calling someone else for child care. This gives both of you the opportunity to spend more time with your kids if the other needs a babysitter.

Custody X Change gives you the flexibility to build the schedule you want, so you can squeeze in short or occasional visits to maximize your parenting time. You don't have to be an every-other-weekend dad if you don't want to.

Using your parenting plan as a negotiating tool

Once you've written a parenting plan and schedule, you'll want to get the other parent to agree to it. Courts generally adopt plans that parents agree on, but getting your ex to agree may not be easy.

Print or send her a copy of your proposed plan. Once she's had a chance to review it, you can discuss it in person or electronically. (Use our parent-to-parent messaging.) Focus on quick changes you can make to address her concerns, and if you disagree with anything she wants changed, suggest a compromise.

If you're unable to agree on everything, present your proposed parenting plan to a mediator or judge. Let them know which sections you've agreed on, and highlight the sections you still disagree on.

The easiest way to make a parenting plan

Creating a parenting plan on your own can feel overwhelming. You have to address all possible situations, while using airtight legal language.

Use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app walks you through each step of creating a plan.

The result will be a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent and secures your child's future.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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Explore examples of common schedules

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Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

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Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

Write your parenting agreement without lawyers. Our templates walk you through each step.

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Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years


Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court


Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

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