Although this hasn’t been the case in decades past, it’s no longer a given that a mother will be awarded full custody of the children in a divorce case. While it used to be that the mother was presumed to be the more capable and nurturing parent and the one better equipped to raise a child, fathers are now getting equal consideration when it comes to choosing which parent should have primary (or, in some cases, sole) custody of a child. Here are some of the reasons why mothers won’t always get custody of their children.
Joint Custody Is Usually the Fairest Option for Everyone
It’s important to understand that in most cases, children do best when the parents have joint custody. This means that both parents have an equal claim to the child. Sometimes, the child will live in one parent’s house the majority of the time, but they will still see their other parent frequently and both parents can make decisions for their child. Sometimes, a child can live roughly equal amounts of time with each parent. Unless there’s a specific reason that would make joint physical custody not in the best interest of the child, that is generally what is done in most cases.
A mother might be upset by this, particularly if the father didn’t do a lot of hands-on care. She might feel as though she is “losing custody” when, in fact, a judge awards joint custody. It’s important for her to realize that although she doesn’t have sole custody of the child, that’s usually not what’s in the child’s best interest.
The Primary Caretaker Is a Consideration
One reason why it might seem as though mothers get more physical time with their children than fathers do is that more women than men take on the role of primary caretaker. In many marriages, one parent stays home with the children when they are babies and toddlers. In some homes, even when both parents work full-time, one parent takes on the bulk of the responsibility for the caring of the children. In decades past, this role was more often than not taken on by the mother.
Times are changing, however; approximately 16 percent of all stay-at-home parents in the United States are dads. In other households, both parents work and the fathers take on the larger role of child-rearing for various reasons. When these families go through a divorce, the judge will consider who has taken care of the children more. If it’s dad, then he might be more likely than mom to have the children more of the time. Remember that this doesn’t mean that the mother doesn’t get custody at all; it just means that the primary residence of the children will be their father’s home.
Drugs, Child Abuse, or Child Neglect Might Be an Issue
In some marriages, drugs, child abuse, child neglect, or abandonment might be issues. In families where it’s the father with the issues, he will be less likely to get custody of the children. In families where it’s the mother, she will be the one who is likely not to get custody. The primary goal in any custody arrangement is to meet the needs of the children, so it makes sense that if there is any issue pertaining to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect, that parent will not be left alone with the kids.
In many of these cases, visitation is still permitted. A mother who has an active drug addiction or who has abused the children in the past might be allowed only supervised visitation. This means that the children will live with their father (or another family member or a foster family, depending on whether the father is a fit parent) and will be taken to a neutral location to spend time with their mother under the supervision of a third party, generally a social worker. It might be that after some time has passed and the mother has had treatment and counseling, she might be able to have unsupervised visitation with the kids.
Parental Alienation Can Affect Custody
A mother who consistently bad-mouths her children’s father, tries to impede him from having visitation with the children, or does anything else to alienate the children from their dad might find herself on the losing end of a custody battle. The courts take parental alienation and negative interference with the relationship between a child and his or her parent seriously. It’s important for moms and dads alike to stick to the rule of, “If you can’t say something nice about your ex, say nothing at all,” at least as far as the children are concerned.
It’s been shown to be damaging to children to hear that their mom or dad is a bad parent, a liar, a cheater, or any other label that an angry ex-spouse might accuse them of being. If you are tempted to bad-mouth your child’s other parent, keep in mind that the person you’re disparaging is part of your child. To tell a child that his father is a liar, for example, says, in essence, that the child must choose between their mother and their (lying) father. Attempting to alienate your child from his or her other parent is something that could cause you to lose custody, and that is true if you are the mom or the dad.
Poor Judgment on the Mother’s Part Can Cause a Loss of Custody
In general, judges want to place children with parents who are fit. The definition of a fit parent can vary; for example, one parent might be upset that their 12-year-old daughter’s other parent allows her to wear makeup. Disagreements like this are not something that a court will get involved with. They fall under things that need to be worked out between two parents, even if they are divorced and not getting along.
Larger issues, however, can be a reason for a mother to lose custody. For example, if a father finds out that a mother is allowing their 14-year-old to drink alcohol with friends in the home on the weekends, that is a reason for him to ask a judge to intervene. It shows poor judgment on the part of the mother, and this could cause a change in living arrangements or even the loss of custody.
If you are a parent who is in the middle of a child custody rights battle, it can be overwhelming to know what you can do to boost the odds that you will retain joint custody or, in some cases, receive sole custody of your child. Talk to the legal professionals at National Family Solutions to find out how you can represent yourself in court and fight for the best interest of your child.
If you find yourself in a custody battle for rights to your children, contact us today to see how we can help you represent yourself in court and earn a fair settlement! Leave your name and number to get a call back, or call us directly at 800-608-5882