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What are fathers' rights in child custody?

In the past, a typical California custody arrangement resulted in a mother receiving primary custody of the children, while the father, as the non-custodial parents, was only able to exercise visitation rights. This arrangement does still occur in some situations, but fathers should note that they have the right to shared custody. Because society has moved towards a co-parenting environment, divorcing parents should understand that this likely means they will have joint-custody of their children post-divorce.

What are fathers' rights when it comes to child custody? Even though our nation has moved towards joint custody and studies have shown that shared parenting is ideal for children, fathers across the nation still need to exert their rights during dissolution. While we would like to say gender biases are out of the picture, these unfortunately can come into play. This is especially true when the children have been brought up by the mother who stays home full or part-time.

But, if one is afraid that the court will rule in favor of the mother if they fight for their custodial rights, here are some statistics to keep in mind. It was found that in roughly 51 percent of custody cases, parents were able to agree out of court that the mother would be the custodial parent. In 29 percent of these cases, a third party neutral was not used in the decision-making process. Only 11 percent of custody cases are determine via mediation. In 5 percent of custody matters, the issues at hand were resolved after there was a custody evaluation. Finally, only 4 percent of custody matters went to trial, and of these cases, only 1.5 percent completed the litigation process.

So what does this say about custody matters and fathers' rights? These facts show that courts are not the big decision maker when it comes to mother's obtaining primary custody. In fact, the most likely scenario to result in such a way is when divorcing parents decide custody out of court without the aid of a neutral party. Therefore, this highlights the importance of using a mediator or a judge to help reach a custody decision. This will ensure the rights of both parents are taken into consideration.

In order to arrive at a fair child custody agreement, divorcing parents need to understand the importance of legal assistance. Whether that means obtain help from an attorney, using a mediator or relying on a judge to make a decision, any of these steps help protect the parental rights of those involved.

Source: Liveabout.com, "A Father's Legal Rights to Child Custody Before and During Divorce," Cathy Meyer, Nov. 27, 2016

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
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