You may have heard various rumors about custody and visitation when it comes to divorced fathers rights. In many cases, the good news is that myths are just that: myths based on things that happened in the past or simple falsehoods that have taken hold over the years. Today, fathers overwhelmingly have rights and can claim to cultivate and maintain a relationship with their children. Whether you are a mom or a dad, read through some of these common misconceptions regarding divorced fathers’ rights.
Myth: Courts Tend to Grant Mothers Custody
It is true that, in general, mothers tend to have more time with their children than fathers. This is not due to courts favoring mothers, however. Instead, it is due to the tendency for fathers not to ask for custody of their children. When the mother and father both want custody (and both are fit parents), the court will often award joint custody, allowing both the mother and the father significant time with the child and shared decision-making responsibilities.
Shared custody does not always result in each parent having the child exactly 50 percent of the time. The child spends the most time will depend on which parent was his or her primary caregiver before the divorce, which parent lives in the child’s school district (if applicable), the work schedules of both parents, and other factors. Ideally, both parents will develop a parenting plan that details how much time the child spends with each parent and how that will be accomplished.
Myth: There Will Be One Custodial Parent and One Non-Custodial Parent
Many people assume that when a couple gets divorced, the children will live with their mother and see their father every other weekend. While this used to be true in previous decades, this model is becoming less popular. In many cases, if both parents want custody of the child, both get custody. The child will spend large chunks of time with each parent (though it might not be exactly 50/50).
There are two types of custody: physical and legal. If both parents have joint physical custody, then the child will live at both of their houses. They might spend one week with one parent and then one week with the other. Or they might spend Monday through Thursday nights with the parent living within the school district and Friday through Sunday nights with the parent who lives a bit farther away. The details are unique to each family.
With joint legal custody, you both will be able to decide the child’s various things. For example, you can work together to choose a school. You can both attend parent/teacher conferences. You can both talk to your child’s pediatrician about different options to treat a condition and decide together. Sometimes, one parent will have “tiebreaking” privileges, meaning that if a consensus cannot be made, the choice will go to one designated parent.
Myth: Divorced Fathers Have to Pay Child Support
Child support is determined based on each parent’s income, the living expenses of each parent, and the child’s needs. In some cases, no child support is paid at all. This generally happens when both parents make similar incomes and spend significant time at each house. Each parent will provide food, housing, and other needs when they have their child.
Other times, child support is written into the custody orders. In many cases, the parent who makes more money will pay a specific dollar amount to the parent making less money. If one parent has physical custody of the child while the other is non-custodial or rarely has the child, then often, the non-custodial parent will pay the custodial parent. Whether it is the mother or the father is irrelevant.
Myth: The Mother Can Tell the Father How to Parent Their Child
In cases where the mother has been the primary caregiver, she might feel like she has the right to tell the father how to parent their shared child when he has physical custody. (The opposite would apply in cases where the father has been the primary caregiver.) Outside of issues that are abusive or neglectful, however, this is not usually the case.
There are some exceptions in some cases about travel and medical issues, but these are written into the custody papers. If the father wants the child to have a later bedtime at his house than the mother has at her house, that is fine. If one parent has a vegetarian or grain-free home and the other does not, the child will adapt to each household’s different foods.
One parent does not make the rules for the other parent’s home. It is often helpful to settle on some common rules when it comes to behavior and schoolwork. For example, both parents should be ensuring that homework is done. For young children, having similar bedtimes is often helpful to keep the child on a good routine. These issues can be worked out between the parents.
Myth: The Father Can Tell the Mother How to Spend Child Support Funds
Finally, some fathers believe that they can tell their ex-wives how to spend child support funds. (And the opposite applies in cases where the mother pays child support to the father.) This is not the case. The parent receiving the child’s support can generally use it the way that they want. No accounting must be made to the courts or anyone else; it is assumed that the parent receiving the support will support the child.
If you believe that your child’s needs are not being taken care of, then that is something to talk to your legal resource group about. Contact National Family Solutions for guidance in this situation.