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Fathers' rights: Know your custody rights

As a father going through a divorce, a concern you may have is losing too much time with your children. The reality is that, in the past, the courts seems biased toward keeping children with their mothers. In many cases, fathers were the only ones working, so it made sense to keep children with the person who raised them the majority of the time.

This isn't the case now. In today's world, both men and women work and raise their children. Sometimes, men stay at home and women are the breadwinners. For this reason, it's important to know that the courts no longer have a preference toward the children staying with the mother. Instead, the court wants to see the children happy and healthy, so it focuses on whatever parenting plan allows for that to be the case.

What does the court look for to determine custody?

If your case has to go to court, the judge takes many factors into consideration such as who has spent more time with the children, who has been involved in the daily care of the children and who works or presently stays at home. The judge looks at things like who has participated in the child's pastimes and who has been supportive.

In many cases, both parents have been there for the child in similar ways, making joint custody necessary. In certain situations, parents may split their custody time 50-50. In others, it makes sense to divide the time differently based on a parent's work schedule or the child's needs.

The judge also listens to what children have to say in some cases, especially if the child is older. For example, a teenager may have a preference to live with his or her mother because of living near friends or school, or a teen might choose a parent based on having the same gender. As you know, the teen years already come with many changes, so the right support system during those changes matters significantly to a teen's life.

The good news for fathers concerned about custody is that you can actually develop a parenting plan outside court. If you and your spouse come up with an agreeable parenting plan, then there is usually no reason a judge would deny it. If you can come up with something you're both happy with, it can help both of you feel more comfortable about the future.

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