Getting a Fair Custody Arrangement: Advice for Dads

Most states have laws that prohibit gender-based rulings in custody cases. However, more often than not, the mother is awarded primary custody, while the father receives considerably less time with the child.

Often, the best way to get what you want is to negotiate a parenting plan with your child's mother. When that doesn't work out, you have other options for seeking your desired timeshare.

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How gender may factor into custody decisions

Judges base their custody decisions on what serves the child's best interests. The child's relationship with both parents is one of several factors considered, and here the traditional view of mothers as caretakers can sway the judge's decision. This is especially true if the mother is the child's primary caregiver.

When custody decisions are left up to the judge, this can be a tough obstacle to overcome. Learning about the rights you have as a father and exactly what factors affect custody determinations can help. Consult with a lawyer or check you state's child custody laws to find this information.

Ways to pursue the timeshare you want

Option 1: Reach an agreement with your child's mother

Negotiating a parenting plan with your ex is the optimal way to get the time you want with your child. This option gives you a say in how much time you'll spend with your child and encourages cooperation instead of competition among parents.

To begin, draft a parenting plan to explain your ideal arrangement. If it works with your schedules and you can cooperate well, suggest joint physical custody. This may incentivize the mother to agree, as both parents will get nearly equal time with the child.

Next, talk through your plan with your child's mother. Point out areas of agreement and disagreement, then try to compromise. If you find it difficult to talk one-on-one, try an alternative dispute resolution method to help you negotiate.

Together or with the help of a legal professional, you and your ex will write the terms of your agreement into a shared parenting plan. You should file it with the appropriate court to ensure there are legal consequences for disobeying the terms.

Option 2: Petition the court

If you can't reach an agreement with the other parent, you'll need to ask the court to decide the details of a custody order. If you already have an order and want more parenting time, you could ask the court to modify the order. Typically, there has to be a substantial change in circumstances for the court to approve a modification.

In any case, it's advantageous to have lawyer representation, since a lawyer has the knowledge and experience necessary to build and argue your case. Some lawyers even specialize in father's rights, and some offer pro bono (free) legal services to low-income parents.

Although it's not recommended, you can represent yourself. Be sure to prepare for court accordingly. Many counties have legal aid societies and law libraries that can help.

Scheduling tips

Regardless of whether you reach an agreement, you should draft a visitation schedule as part of your parenting plan. This will give you an idea of what your ideal custody arrangement looks like. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Tailor parenting time to each parent's availability

Your schedule will depend on which parent is available to care for the child.

For example, if the child goes to daycare after school and you finish work before the child's mother, you may suggest that you pick the child up from daycare. You might even keep the child overnight and take them to school in the morning.

If an overnight isn't possible, settle for a visit that lasts until the mother gets out of work. Either way, this is valuable time you can spend helping your child with homework and having dinner — activities that will help them adjust to your home.

Don't be afraid to ask for an uncommon arrangement

The alternating weekends schedule was established in order to give both parents the opportunity to spend time with their child on weekends. However, you have other weekend scheduling options.

Unless the other parent agrees, it's unlikely that a judge will give you every single weekend. But asking for three weekends a month, such as in the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends schedule, might work.

Find ways to increase your parenting time

A step-up parenting plan is one way to maximize your parenting time. It increases the noncustodial parent's visitation gradually over months or years.

Another idea is to take advantage of times when the other parent is temporarily unavailable to care for the child. Include the right of first refusal as a parenting plan provision so the other parent has to ask you to watch the child before they can reach out to a third party.

Get what's best for you and your child

The first step toward getting your fair share of parenting time is making a parenting plan. Unfortunately, this can feel overwhelming. But the Custody X Change app simplifies the process by guiding you through each step of creating a plan.

The result will be a professional document with airtight legal language. It demonstrates your competence as a parent and secures your child's future.

A schedule should also be part of your plan. Custody X Change helps you build a schedule piece by piece, resulting in a court-compliant written schedule and visual calendar.

Custody X Change is the simplest, most reliable way to make a parenting plan.

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Long distance schedules

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Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

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Making a parenting plan

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Interstate, long distance

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Guides by location:

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Scheduling guidelines

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Age guidelines:

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3 to 5 years

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Joint physical custody

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Sole legal custody

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Journal what happens

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Calculate time & overnights

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