I complain a lot about how family courts treat fathers and with good reason. There are a lot of children out there who effectively have no father and the laws and family court practices related to fathers and children are a big part of the reason why. I’ve documented the many ways in which laws and courts come between fathers and children and I’ll continue to do so because, while the culture is becoming more open to the concept of equal rights for fathers, we’re still a long way from that goal.
Still, fathers don’t go into family court entirely unarmed, and this article teaches them how to be better prepared (Articles About Men, 11/15/10). (The article is from the website of a particular attorney in Arizona. The fact that I cite his article doesn’t mean I’m touting his services. It just means that he’s got some good advice for fathers seeking custody and I want our readers to know what he has to say.)
Now, what becomes immediately clear from reading the article is that if a father wants equal, primary or sole custody of his child post-divorce, he needs to walk that extra mile to prove he’s entitled to it. The simple truth is that Dad has to do more than Mom to get the same results.
Equipped with that information, the article provides some very good advice. The most important tip is to “Document your Parenting Time.” That means keep a journal/diary and note what you do with your child. Did you take him/her to soccer practice, attend a game, go to a play rehearsal, a doctor’s appointment? Write it down. Make a habit of noting your daily activities and always include what you did with your child.
If you do that, and do it regularly, the judge can admit the journal itself into evidence and you can use it to “refresh your memory” if you’re called on to testify. Keeping a journal is the single most important thing you can do for yourself in family court.
Other things are what you’re likely doing anyway, things like closely monitoring and being involved in all aspects of your child’s life. Important ones are educational activities, extracurricular activities like sports, and medical/health issues.
Remember, you may one day be sitting on a witness stand with an unfriendly attorney asking you very specific questions about you and your child and if you’re unsure about one thing or another, the judge will notice. Therefore, don’t be unsure. Know the current issues in your child’s life.
Another tip that’s valuable is “Don’t be a Victim of Circumstance.” That means, don’t let your partner decide what involvement you’ll have in your child’s life.
If you find you’re not being informed about parent-teacher conferences, birthday parties, game dates/times, etc., send an email that politely spells out the fact that she’s not informing you and demanding that she do so in every instance. Don’t be confrontational, just explain to her how important those events are to you.
Then keep your email and her response. If she doesn’t change, send her another and again keep your email and her response. That way you’ll be able to show a pattern of interference on her part between you and your child.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but it’s necessary work. Remember, the judge doesn’t know you. He/she may even assume that, as a dad, you have no real interest in your child. It’s up to you to educate the judge about who you are and how important a role you play in your child’s life. If you don’t do that, no one else will.