Many individuals would like to believe the custody regulations in Auburn, AL are gender-neutral, which means that no preferential treatment is provided to either parent based on sex. In years prior, the state had seen a preference for awarding mothers custody of young children, which is known as the “tender years doctrine.” These kinds of laws have since evolved to become more gender-neutral and to clearly depict the child’s best interests, which is most essential.
The situation may seem more progressive legally, but the reality is that most judges dealing with child custody cases still choose to award primary custody of children to a primary caregiver, typically the “stay-at-home” parent, which tends to be a child’s mother in more cases.
This is often the case, but it does beg the question as to how child custody cases are managed when the father is the stay-at-home parent.
Gender Neutral Child Custody Laws
If a father has been present, available, and competent as a parent, then the “gender-neutral” approach to child custody laws would suggest that the father should be given primary custody of the child if joint custody is not an alternative.
However, a lingering sense that mothers make better caregivers still remains, which causes family court judges to award mothers primary custody of children. Many experts would agree with this statement. It is also vital to note that this presumption is not as robust as it was a few decades ago.
For favorable child custody results, stay-at-home dads can do certain things to help enhance their chances of being awarded primary custody. First, it’s vital for fathers to be involved in all facets of their child’s life, including physician appointments, social activities, school functions, sports, etc. They should also have a knowledge of the child’s routine and attend as many events as they can, including sporting games and parent-teacher meetings.
Understand the Factors
Alabama judges review various factors when deciding on primary residential custody. They start their assessment of both parents presumably without any preference towards either parent based on sex, and even if they have a discreet bias, you can overcome that by presenting the facts.
The factors take the below-mentioned basic concepts into consideration:
- Which parent offers a more stable environment for the child?
- Which parent has provided primary care for the child to date?
- The ability of the child to adjust to a new school, home, etc.
- If the child wants to provide an opinion as to who they prefer to reside with, the court would hear their preference (the preferences of a child 12 years or older hold substantial weight).
- Which parent has a stronger emotional bond with the child?
- Which parent works to create a good parent-child relationship with the co-parent and visitation with the co-parent?
- Have there been any cases of child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, or substance abuse on the parents’ part?
- Which parent willingly follows court orders?
- Which parent has better living circumstances?
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
Besides the aforementioned, there are other factors as well. However, the court is generally trying to understand who is the most emotionally-healthy parent, and who will put the best interests of the child above (or at least equal to) their own. You must never try to prevent your co-parent from seeing your child unless there are safety concerns that you can prove in front of a judge.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Fortunately, if you are a stay-at-home dad, today’s gender-neutral laws are in your favor. You only have to set yourself up for success and make a sharp impression in court. This can be done by presenting proof that you have been the primary caretaker, and it is in the best interest of your child that you remain the primary caregiver.
Remember, the judge wants to determine what is in the child’s best interests. It is not about your or your ex-spouses desires; it is about the kids. Therefore, if you can show that you are a better choice, the possibility of you gaining primary residential custody of your child increases exponentially.
Other Suggestions for Stay-at-Home Dads
- File your petition to get the first word in with the judge, which means that the judge will review and consider your words first and may set the tone for the proceeding.
- Never bad-mouth your ex-partner to your children.
- Be prepared to document that you are the primary caregiver and speak to witnesses who can and will testify to the quality care that you offer your children.
- Never deny your spouse parenting time with the children as judges do not view this kindly.
- Be ready to negotiate as judges prefer for parents to reach an amicable decision on custody, and through working with their lawyer, people can usually reach a mutually agreeable settlement on their own.
Legal Help for your Child Custody Case
Talk to a seasoned lawyer at Alsobrook Law Group who understands how to help you get the best possible outcomes for your specific situation. To consult with a skilled attorney at our offices in Auburn, AL, please call today at (334) 737-3718.