Child custody is typically awarded in a child custody hearing in front of a family law judge. It can also be resolved out of court through negotiation and agreement via arbitration or mediation. If the parents agree, they can make a more informal child custody arrangement between the two of them, but informal agreements do not hold the weight of law. If an informal agreement is challenged in the future, it is difficult for a court of law to make a determination on which party should prevail.

What Rights Does a Father Have in Child Custody?

A father has the right to request child custody and visitation. Whether child custody is awarded to a father depends largely on his relationship with his child before child custody was requested. If the father spends considerable time with his child before custody is requested, it is more likely that child custody will be granted.

How is Child Custody Determined?

Child custody is decided based on a standard known as the “best interest of the child.” “Best interests” means that all custody and visitation decisions are made with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the child’s best interests are served, and that the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional health are fostered. It is commonly held that a child’s mental and emotional wellbeing is best served if he or she has a loving relationship with both parents.

What’s Considered to Determine a Child’s “Best Interest”?

Family law judges consider multiple factors to determine the best interest of the child. Some common factors include the following:

  • The wishes of the child, so long as the child is old enough to express his or her wishes;
  • Physical and mental health of each parent;
  • The age and sex of the child;
  • Whether either parent abuses, neglects, or otherwise puts the child in physical or emotional danger;
  • Whether either parent uses or abuses drugs or alcohol; and/or
  • The home environment of each parent and whether it is stable and healthy.

While no one factor is determinative, a family law judge considers a number of factors related to the child’s and the parent’s circumstances.

What are a Father’s Rights with Regard to Visitation?

Court issued visitations are granted so long as it is determined to be in the best interest of the child. A judge considers a father’s visitation rights at the same time as determining child custody. Visitation rights include the right to:

  • Visit the child at appointed days, times, and hours;
  • Plan and perform activities with the child during granted visitation times;
  • Enjoy time alone with the child without the other parent;
  • Obtain an injunction preventing the mother from relocating the child such that the father’s visitation rights are infringed upon; and/or
  • Petition the court for modification of visitation and custody orders.

If the child’s mother ignores or disregards any predetermined visitations as ordered by the family law judge, it is important for the father to report it immediately. Official reports can be used in the future to modify visitation and custody rights.

Should I Hire an Attorney?

Coping with child custody issues is difficult for all the persons involved. However, you should understand how a father’s rights in child custody will affect the outcome of a proceeding. If you feel that your rights as a parent have not been fully met, you may wish to consult with a family law attorney for advice.