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divorced dad child custody lawyerAs a father, divorce can be a frightening prospect, since it will most likely mean that you will have less time with your children, and you may worry about whether you will be able to be as involved in your kids’ lives as you were during your marriage. However, ending your marriage does not mean that you will have to take on a secondary parental role. As you and your spouse determine how you will handle the custody of your kids, you should be sure to understand the steps you can take to protect your parental rights. By making sure you will be able to share in parental responsibilities, you can continue to be a fully involved parent and the great dad your kids need.

Sharing Custody and Parenting Time

In the stereotypical divorce, the mother is awarded primary custody of the couple’s children, and the father is relegated to only seeing kids on a limited basis, such as every other weekend. However, this idea is a relic of the past based on old attitudes toward families and parenting. Many of today’s marriages are different than they were in previous generations, and when both parents are closely involved and play equal roles in their children’s lives, child custody arrangements should reflect this.

While the divorce laws are different in each state, in most cases, they do not favor either mothers or fathers when addressing child custody. Instead, they usually state that all decisions that are made should be based on what is in the children’s best interests. If you and your spouse worked together to make decisions about how your children should be raised, you should both continue to have the right to make these decisions following your divorce, and you should both have reasonable amounts of parenting time with your kids.

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divorced dad law guardian ad litemDivorce cases can become complicated quickly, especially when children are involved. While some divorcing parents are able to work together to reach agreements on how they will handle child custody, others may find it difficult or impossible to cooperate, requiring them to settle these matters in court. When family court judges are asked to make decisions about child-related issues, they may feel that they do not have enough information to determine what is best for the children, and they may appoint a guardian ad litem to assist in this area. A guardian ad litem may also be appointed at the request of either parent.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

A guardian ad litem, or GAL, is usually an attorney who has received training in child-related issues. The GAL will act as a representative for the child or children, and their goal is to determine how to resolve child custody issues in a way that will provide for the children’s best interests. After being appointed, the GAL will perform an investigation, which may include meeting with the individual parents, interviewing the children, visiting the parents’ homes, observing the parents while they are caring for their children, and speaking to other people who may have insight into the case, such as teachers, doctors, therapists, daycare providers, or extended family members.

In some cases, a GAL may work with the parents to help them reach agreements about child custody matters, while in others, they may provide a report to the judge that offers recommendations about how these issues should be handled. These recommendations will be based on what the GAL believes is in the children’s best interests, and while the GAL will consider the children’s wishes, they will also weigh other factors involved in the case. If a trial will be needed in the divorce or child custody case, the GAL may be called as a witness and asked questions by both parties’ attorneys.

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dad's divorce and child custody attorneyWhen it comes to divorce, many dads worry that they face an uphill battle. Culturally, mothers are often considered to be the parents who are most concerned with childcare and household responsibilities. This means that even when a dad plays an equal role in raising his children, he may need to fight against the assumption the mother should have primary custody. To make matters worse, a father may worry that he will be considered a deadbeat due to his absence from his children’s lives.

Whether you are currently going through the divorce process or have completed your divorce, you’ll want to make sure that you can continue to be the father your children deserve. The last thing you want is for your children to feel that you are not there when they need you. To avoid the possibility of being considered a deadbeat dad, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Pay child support on time - The most common reason that dads are labeled deadbeats is that they don’t pay child support as required. Even if you think that it’s unfair that a large percentage of your income will be going to your ex, remember that the money is being used to provide for your kids’ needs. If you don’t pay child support on time or in full, you will still be required to pay the full amount owed, along with interest on late payments. Failure to pay child support could also cause you to be held in contempt of court, which could lead to a variety of consequences, including time in prison. If you have lost your job or experienced other financial issues that affect your ability to pay, you’ll want to bring this matter to the court’s attention immediately to ensure that you won’t be penalized.

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dad's divorce law domestic violenceIf you are a devoted father, there are few things worse than being accused of committing violence or abuse against your spouse or children. In some cases, these types of claims can arise out of misunderstandings or arguments that get out of control, but sadly, there are many situations when a spouse or a current or former partner accuses a father of domestic violence in an attempt to gain an advantage in a child custody dispute. If you are facing accusations of domestic violence or abuse, you will want to do the following:

Follow the Court’s Orders

If your children’s other parent has obtained an emergency restraining order or order of protection against you, it is important to follow all of the requirements and restrictions in the order. Even if the order was based on false accusations, you will be required to follow all of its terms while it is in effect. Even though it may be difficult, you may need to move out of your home temporarily, and you may be unable to see or communicate with your children until these matters are resolved. If you violate a protective order, you could face criminal charges, as well as additional restrictions that affect your parental rights.

Gather Evidence to Support Your Side of the Story

As you prepare to defend yourself against accusations that you have committed domestic violence or abuse, you’ll want to gather as much evidence as possible to explain what actually happened and show that you are not a danger to your children. You may be able to provide an alibi to show that you were not present at the date and time the abuse allegedly occurred, or copies of communication with your children’s other parent may show that they have behaved unreasonably in the past. If necessary, you can provide records related to treatment for mental health or substance abuse issues, and you can obtain statements from friends or family members regarding your character and fitness as a parent. If child protective services are looking into claims of abuse, you will want to cooperate with them, provide any information they request, and follow their recommendations.

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parenting time for divorced dadsIf you’re a dad who is going through a divorce, you’re likely to be worried about spending less time with your kids. Unfortunately, this is an issue that is going to be unavoidable, since the time that your children spend with one parent is time that they won’t be with the other parent. You’ll need to adjust to not being with your kids every day, but you’ll also want to make sure you can spend time with them at every available opportunity. One way you can do so is by making sure your parenting agreement includes a “right of first refusal” clause.

What Is the Right of First Refusal?

Your parenting agreement will include detailed information about when your children will spend parenting time with you and your ex-spouse. A daily schedule will specify the days and times when your kids will be with each parent, and your agreement will also cover holidays, school vacations, and any other days where you will deviate from the normal schedule. However, there may be some days when either you or your ex will not be able to have parenting time with your kids as scheduled. These situations may be addressed by including a “right of first refusal” in your agreement.

The right of first refusal is a clause stating that when one parent will be unable to provide care for your children during their scheduled parenting time, they will be required to contact the other parent and see if they are available to watch the children before making other arrangements, such as hiring a babysitter or having kids stay with relatives. Essentially, the other parent will be given the first opportunity to have their children stay with them, and other arrangements can only be made if the parent refuses to take the children during that time.

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