Not surprisingly, dads are more likely to be the parent seeking advice on how to obtain primary custody of children and they are concerned that courts have a bias against fathers becoming the primary caregiver.
While as recently as ten years ago this may have been the case. Currently the courts in Travis, Williamson, Burnet, and Hayes are most concerned with what is best for the child. This means evaluating individuals: not on the basis of their gender but on the basis of which parent is going to be best the best care giver.
Some of the most decisive questions that could result in the father winning primary custody are: does the child’s mother move around a lot? Does the mother have documented mental health issues (other than depression)? Does the mother have documented previous child protective service issues, a history of abuse, domestic violence, or neglect?
But many situations are less clear cut and that’s when the nuance of the situation becomes more important: does the child have special needs? Is the child in school or out of school? How far apart do the parents live? Another important factor is what is the ability of the parents to cooperate? Is there one parent who can be exposed as non-cooperative through little things like refusing to disclose school schedules or doctor’s appointments?
Mothers do have a distinct advantage in custody decisions when a child is younger than 24 months old. In cases involving a child that young and a father who elects voluntarily to be involved, the courts typically give the father frequent opportunities to bond with the child. What’s important for fathers in situations like these is respect for the process: understanding that maybe things like overnight visits are not warranted, but taking advantage of the opportunities you do have to bond with the child and using that to further expand visitation rights.
The bottom line is that the court is looking for is some indication of who is the more stable parent and who is the more permanent caregiver. Clients should evaluate for themselves: why should a judge trust you in a primary care role with these children?
James Evans is a board certified family attorney who is understands the process to obtaining primary custody and is well qualified to assist with your child custody case.