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Understanding Fathers' Child Custody Rights

When it comes to child custody, fathers often feel that the law is stacked against them. Historically, there were laws in place to support that view. Now, though, both the law and the courts are beginning to adopt a more unbiased perspective on fathers child custody rights. From child custody support to visitation, understanding your child custody rights as a father is essential to playing a productive, active part in your childs life.

Myths About Fathers' Child Custody Rights

Before we discuss the actual rights of non-custodial fathers, lets debunk some of the myths about fathers and child custody rights.

First, changes in society have lessened the belief that the mother is the better parent and should automatically receive custody. That idea was known as the tender years doctrine, and it held that a mother got custody because a young child needed a mother's love and care. As attitudes about gender roles have shifted, its now recognized that fathers play an important role in child-rearing at every age.

In recent years, the tender years doctrine has been replaced by the court's use of a gender-neutral standard of what's in the child's best interests. With that in mind, the court looks at all relevant factors and makes a decision based on what will best serve the child's overall well-being. Sometimes the results favor the mother, sometimes the father. Custody for the mother is no longer a given.

Understanding the Court Order

A court order on custody - also known as a parenting plan or visitation schedule - is what establishes your rights and responsibilities. It's essential for you and your child's other parent to make a visitation schedule that works for both of you. Things to consider are not simply when and where you will see you child, but also issues like who has access to school and medical records and whether youre able to participate in school and extracurricular activities.

Your Visitation Rights

How do you enforce a custody order if the custodial parent isnt honoring it? If its a sporadic problem, try to work out the arrangements amicably. If its not, though, you should thoroughly document any violations of the order before involving child custody attorneys. If you can show a pattern of violations, a lawyer can help you get the order enforced in court.

Repeated violations of a custody order can be a legally valid reason for changing custody in many states, especially if the custodial parent is alienating the children from the non-custodial parent. The police may also assist you in enforcing a visitation order, but its important to consider the impact the appearance of police officers may have on your children.

Changes in Visitation Schedules

Its sometimes necessary to change visitation schedules to meet the needs of both parents and children. If the custodial parent is cooperative, work out an agreement between the two of you instead of going to court. Regardless, its important to get the new arrangement in writing.

Lowering Your Child Support

Although the laws vary from state to state, it is possible to lower your child support if your income has decreased significantly, if your ex-spouses income increased significantly or if your expenses have increased for reasons beyond your control.

Fathers have more rights with regard to child custody than ever before. A qualified attorney can help ensure those rights are promoted and protected to the full extent of the law.