Although state laws concerning a dad’s right will vary, many states have updates their laws to provide additional rights for fathers. Gone are the days when the courts assumed that the mother was always the best primary caregiver. Now, the courts will generally make a fair evaluation of what living arrangement is best for the child.
Recently on our divorce forum a father asked, “My wife has left me and taken the kids. I am afraid she will move out of state, and I won’t be able to have a relationship with them. What are the laws and how can I protect my rights as a dad?”
There’s no need to go fifteen rounds with your spouse over custody issues, but it is a good idea to understand your state’s rights and the rights of a father in a divorce. It may also be a good idea to discuss your concerns with a divorce lawyer, especially if you have tried to make amends and your wife has no interest in reconciliation.
Child custody and a dads rights
Although prior to the 20th century fathers would have had absolute control over their children’s futures following divorce, the pendulum eventually swung the other direction later in the 20th century imposing what was termed the “tender years” doctrine. This theory of parenting argued that young children needed the nurturing and care of their mothers and were generally placed in her care following divorce.
Unfortunately, although this doctrine may have been well-intentioned, some mothers simply are not good parents and others had little involvement with their children prior to the divorce. The tender years doctrine also failed to consider the important role a father has in child-rearing, often eliminating their parental participation.
With this in mind, the courts have developed alternative custodial arrangements which allows for high involvement of both parents, especially if it is in the best interest of the child.
Push for dad’s rights after divorce
If you are an involved dad and wish to retain your rights following divorce you may need help. There are now a host of different groups which have emerged, including lawyers, who specialize in fighting for dad’s rights.
The goal of these parental groups is to help fathers understand that a father can be a good custodian of the children after divorce, and even if they are not the primary caregiver, often they should be given the legal authority to spend significant time with their children and help make legal decisions.
Arguments against dad’s rights
Although most people acknowledge the importance of fathers, there are traditionalists who continue to defend the tender years doctrine and believe that maintaining the consistency of care following divorce is critical to the development of children. Advocates argue that at times, although less often, this general rule could also allow the father to remain the primary caregiver if they were the primary caregiver during the marriage.
Dads, who want to be involved with caring for a child after divorce, assuming they are a fit parent, should be afforded every opportunity to make this goal a reality. If you have concerns about your rights, talk to a divorce lawyer who shares your vision.
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