If you have been in a custody dispute and did not receive custody of your child, you might feel devastated. Judges make decisions based on the child’s best interest, and being told that living in your home is not in the best interest of your child can feel like a punch in the stomach. It’s important to understand why the decision has been made; it might not have anything to do with the type of home environment you can offer your child. Also, you might still have visiting rights for fathers.
Why You Were Denied Custody
It is normal to feel angry, shocked, sad, and discouraged if you were not awarded your child’s custody. While many parents get joint custody of their children after a divorce or breakup, in some cases, one parent is awarded sole custody, and the other is awarded visitation. There are many reasons this might happen, and the decision does not indicate that you are a bad parent or have an unfit home for a child.
1. Proximity to Your Child
First, if you do not live close to your child’s mother, it might be determined that it’s too stressful for the child to be moving back and forth between two homes. Perhaps it would necessitate hours in the car each week.
If your child is very young and still nursing or otherwise very attached to his or her mother, you might not have physical custody at this time, but it might be possible in the future. In this case, you also might not be able to have overnight visits until your child is older and weaned.
3. Your Living Situation
In some cases, your living situation might not be adequate for a child. If you live with relatives, even if they are loving, you might not have the room needed to give a growing child privacy and a place to call home. Again, if your situation changes, you might be able to revisit the custody arrangement in the future.
4. Development, Behavioral, or Physical Health Issues
Children who have developmental, behavioral, or physical health issues that require a lot of consistency or hands-on care might also not do well with the back-and-forth generally required in a joint custody situation. In this case, regular visitation on the same day or days each week can become part of the child’s routine.
The only way you will know for sure why you weren’t awarded custody is to read the judgment for yourself to see what the judge wrote. Some of the factors, such as where you live, may change, impacting the custody decision. Other factors, such as a child’s special needs, might not change in the future. Read below for more information on visiting rights for fathers.
Types of Visitation Schedules
If you were awarded visiting rights for fathers instead of custody, you should take advantage of that and spend as much time as you can with your child. There are various types of visiting rights for fathers. Ideally, parents will work together to nail down the specifics, but a judge will impose a schedule on you in some cases.
One common schedule is for the noncustodial father to have the child every other weekend (usually Friday evening through Sunday late afternoon) and one evening (not necessarily overnight) during the week. For example, you might pick up your child from school every Tuesday and bring him or her back to their mother’s house after dinner.
You might also pick them up on Friday after school and bring the child back home before dinner on Sunday evenings. If you live too far away to make weekly visits possible, you might see your child only every other weekend or maybe one weekend per month, depending on the distance.
Parents often alternate holidays and make time for the noncustodial parent to have them during some school breaks. For example, you might see your child for Thanksgiving on odd-numbered years and Christmas on even-numbered years. If you live close enough, you should generally have your child on Father’s Day.
Then you might have him or her during the February or April school break and for two or three weeks during the summer. You might be able to travel with your child during those breaks, too, making it possible to go on vacation together. Virtual visiting rights for fathers can also be a possibility.
If you live too far to see your child each week in person, having a standing virtual visit through Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or some other platform, will allow you to see each other and interact. Some noncustodial fathers enjoy a short nightly visit as part of their child’s bedtime routine.
When Visiting Rights for Fathers Are Denied
In some cases, you will not be able to see your child at all. This is generally reserved for cases where there has been an allegation of abuse (either toward the child or toward another person in the family), when the father is in prison, if the father has a severe untreated mental illness or active drug addiction, or if parental rights have been terminated. In some cases, supervised visitation might be a possibility.
This is when you would see your child under the supervision of someone else, often a neutral social worker or another third party. You might be able to follow a plan imposed by a judge that will allow you to gain your visiting rights for fathers. For example, you may need to take parenting classes or go through a rehabilitation program and stay free from drugs and alcohol for some period of time.
The Bottom Line
It is never easy when custody is denied to any parent. If you are a father who does not have custody of your child, then do what you can to ensure that you can still have visitation. Work with your child’s mother to develop a fair visitation schedule that will allow you to create a relationship with your child. National Family Solutions can help, too. Contact us to see if we can help you get the visitation you and your child both deserve.