On March 7, 2017, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story titled “Single-Father Families Outpace Ones Led by Single Mothers.” Drawing on sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, it revealed that:
- In the last decade, the increase in the number of Georgia families headed by single fathers exceeded those headed by single mothers for the first time since 1970.
- Households consisting of a father and children were up 45%, compared to those with a mother and children (35%).
These statistics appear to suggest that more men are willing and able to be primary caretakers for their children. U.S. courts also no longer automatically award custody of minor children to their mothers. Georgia law specifically states that “no presumption exists in favor of either parent…”
The sole guiding principle is the best interests of the child when deciding who gets custody.
As a father, you get full custody in Georgia so long as you put the child's best interests first. The court will consider the following when deciding the child's best interests:
- Compatability with the parent
- Ability to meet the child's essential needs
- Parents health
- Communication between the parents
- Child's preference, age, and sex
In practice, you still face some challenges, especially where younger children are concerned, but there are five ways that you can improve your chances of winning your child custody battle.
Spend Quality Time with Your Children
Many men worry that they need to work full-time will leave a judge with an unfavorable impression of their ability to care for their children. If this is something you’re concerned about, the good news is that research (Trinder, Kellet, & Smith, 2008) has shown that kids aren’t negatively affected when they spend less time with you. What counts is how emotionally close they feel to you. It’s a classic example of quality being more important to a child’s well-being than quantity, so make every minute with your kids an opportunity to deepen your relationship with them.
Don’t Be “Disneyland Dad”
One annoying but the persistent misconception is that divorced dads only care about having fun with their children. They’re all about trips to Disneyland, pizza for dinner, and going to bed at midnight, even on a school night. While there’s nothing wrong with having fun, parenting also calls for you to help your kids with their homework, assign age-appropriate chores, and exercise appropriate discipline. You need to be prepared to demonstrate that you can take both the fun and not-so-fun with equal ability.
Be Civil with Your Ex
This can be hard, especially if your divorce or separation was not exactly amicable. Angry feelings can result in a refusal to properly communicate and co-parent. In extreme cases, one or both parents will actively try to turn the kids against the other, a practice known as parental alienation.
Judges frown on such behavior, so refrain from badmouthing your ex to the children. If you find out that she is trying to prejudice them against you or otherwise damage your relationship with them, document all evidence so that your attorney can bring it to the judge’s attention.
Get Witnesses to Your Parenting
Ask your friends, family members, coworkers, and anyone else who has seen you interact with the children to write an affidavit attesting to your dedication as a parent. Statements from teachers, youth workers, and others who are invested in the well-being of the kids are a big plus. If their mother does try to portray you as a bad parent in court, these documents will go a long way towards proving the truth.
It’s hard, but custody battles take time to settle. Be patient, and focus on proving that you are just as involved in the life of the children, if not more. Make sure that your conduct is above board at all times: not only is this good for the kids, it also shows that your dedication to their best interests is always foremost in your mind.
At the Law Office of Judith Delus, P.A., we firmly believe that the role of a father in a child’s life is important. If you need an experienced and empathetic attorney in your corner during an upcoming or current child custody battle, call us today at (678) 679-6415.