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Most courts filter their decisions through very basic factors or criteria (Rajeer, 2011). The parent's mental and physical capacity to raise the child is one. Who the primary caregiver is between the parents is another. Who decides on his social interaction activities, handles an emergency, has better finances, and helps the child accomplish daily tasks are other criteria. A child, especially a young one, is exposed to trauma during the divorce process. Sometimes, the court assigns a psychologist to establish some routine and order for the child to cope. If the child is mature or old enough, the court considers his or her opinion. The father must thoroughly understand the physical and legal custody and their difference. If he gets sole custody, he should be aware that missing child support will not divest him of custody rights. But any form of misconduct against the child or the mother can be a ground for the court to withdraw sole custody permanently (Rajeer).
At What Age can a Child Choose?
Parents elicit their child's opinion during divorce procedures in the hope of gaining the court's favor to their respective end (Ellerbe, 2009). At other times, the child himself volunteers and initiates the opinion. He may do so because of a conflict with the custodial parent, to get close to a particular or some friends in the area, or to move over to the more lenient parent. The decision on residence is generally left to adult stakeholders in the conflict rather than the children. The guilt and stress of divorce and choice of custody are overwhelming enough to them. A child may feel guilty for the pain of the non-custodial parent as a consequence of the separation. If the parents are unable to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on residence, a counselor may be sought for advice and guidance. If this does not work, a mediator may be called in or the matter turned over to the court for determination. Parents should make their own custody arrangements as they are the more knowledgeable parties than those interceding on what is best for the child. Parents should be the most capable parties to seek the best interest of the child (Ellerbe).
As much as possible, children should be guarded against the pain and pressure of custody conflict and decision (Ellerbe, 2009). But if they have to be involved, the court will give weight to their opinion according to age or maturity. The older the child, the greater the weight assigned to his opinion. Custody laws differ from State to State, but they generally hear the opinion of children who are at least 12 years old. But the age rule is not as strict as it may seem. Not all children at this age are able to think critically and correctly assess the situation for a valid opinion. His or her maturity level, the family situation, and parental influences are often the factors considered. But the most important factor is to determine which parent better meets the best interest of the child in a suitable and appropriate way. In the overall, the decision is still in the hands of adults, such as the parents themselves, professionals or the judge (Ellerbe).
States Favoring Women for Custody
After the replacement of the Tender Years Doctrine by the Best Interest Doctrine, joint custody laws were incorporated in the legislation of 40 States by 1991 (Bird, 2010).
Labels like "parent of primary residence" and "parent of alternate residence" surfaced and are still used in New Jersey. Many other States decide cases, based on the assumption that the child's primary caretaker during the marriage is also her primary parent after the divorce is granted. This is the primary caregiver doctrine. As of last year, legislations in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Oregon as well as New Jersey did not yet include the presumption of joint custody as based on the child's best interests. Sole or primary custody is more likely to be awarded to one parent. West Virginia still has no provision for joint custody and subscribes to the primary caregiver doctrine. These States are likely to award custody to mothers (Bird).
But Fathers Can Win
Fathers should be able to show and prove that they can care and support their children
(White, 2011). Preparation is the crucial factor. A father can begin by hiring a good family lawyer. A good one is knowledgeable about applicable State laws. Friends and acquaintances can make referrals. A father should choose from a set of lawyers with whom he will be most comfortable and successful. A father should maintain written records and information on his good side. These include emails, text messages and voice messages, which attest to his favorable qualities. Verbal claims of proper conduct are not strong enough in court. He should also put his finances in order. He need to pay for legal, court and financial costs. He must prove that he can adequately provide for the child's basic necessities, like food and shelter. He should streamline his time between work and non-work to show to the court that he has adequate time to spend with the child. It must both be quality and quantity time. He cannot work long hours. He must also establish a strong support system of friends and family to show that he can get outside help when needed. He should likewise maintain open communication lines with the mother. They should remain civil even if the custody process is heated. They can save time, money and hurt feelings if they first come to a mutual agreement on custody. If this is difficult or impossible, an impartial mediator should intervene (White).
What to Expect and What to Do
It may be difficult but not impossible to win a custody battle for a father (Waddington
2007). He must make it the sole purpose of his life to seek the best interest of his child. In the process, he should expect to be scrutinized and compelled to yield to even irrational demands or changes. But if changing becomes really necessary, he should be ready to do it. An example is giving up a job for another that is more acceptable to those screening him for custody. It should be encouraging for him to know that the number of never-married and single fathers has increased by 15% since 1995. There are more than 2 million of them in the U.S. alone today. They are fighting for custody, claiming responsibility for their children and winning it in family courts. Many situations and conditions are revealed in these courts. These lead the courts to recognize that, at time, a father can provide a more stable and secure environment to the child. They are not acknowledging a father's capability as opposed to that the mother. Moreover, the father should be able to put bitter feelings towards the mother to make the transition easier (Waddington).
In addition to the measures earlier mentioned, a father can prepare for a strong case of custody in additional ways (Waddington, 2007). He should educate himself and enroll in a parenting skills class. He should learn how to create a happy and healthy environment and relationship with a child who will not have the other parent. The court will be impressed with the time and trouble he takes for the care of the child. It will view this as a sign of strength in him. He should also be ready for any discrediting information from the mother by clear recall of details or by documentation. His lawyer can help a lot in presenting all favorable information about him to the court to strengthen his bid (Waddington).
Co-relational Studies on Fathers
These studies focused not only on the sore consequences of the absence of a father in a home but also those of a close and warm relationship between him and his child (Lamb, 1996). They found that sons who were warm and close to their fathers developed traits, which society values. Respondents to these studies conducted in the 1950s were mostly boys. Father's warmth or closeness is associated with the same desirable characteristics. Children whose father was close and warm to them became more psychologically adjusted, performed better in school and less likely to engage in anti-social behavior. They were also better able to develop satisfying peer relationships as children, as adolescents, and as adults. Another type of research in the mid 70s focused on fathers who were primary providers and deeply involved in their children's lives. These children appeared to do better than those raised in traditional two-parent families. These fathers wanted to stay home with jobs, which allowed them to stay home and organize themselves with flexibility. Mothers were either not present or did not want to stay home full-time with the children but sought professional fulfillment outside the home (Lamb)
The tremendous importance of these studies seems to lie in the recognition of fathers as a primary part of a family…[continue]
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