Men are often stereotyped as secondary care givers to their own children. While sometimes this may hold some semblance of truth, the opposite is often true as well. Parental rights in Washington does not care about your gender. More correctly stated, perhaps, Washington law should not care about your gender. Despite a guise of equality in decision-making, Courts still often find themselves relying on outdated stereotypes while making decisions in divorce or custody battles.
The stay-at-home mom might be more common today, but stay-at-home dads are certainly becoming more regular. Under Washington law, parents are assumed to have equal rights to parent their children, but there is one thing the court cares about more than the parents – the children. In making determinations for custody, courts will perform an analysis to determine what is in the children’s best interest. That answer will often trump everything.
Unmarried men can file paternity forms to become legally recognized as the child’s father. Men can become a de-facto parent by evidencing that they consistently provide care for a significant time with the child and that they took on parental responsibilities without expectation of financial compensation. Men can receive child support, which can be used to cover childrearing costs like food, housing, daycare, education, and medical expenses. Ultimately, judge’s will look at the child’s best interest when deciding custody, and often men struggle to describe their relationship sufficiently to secure their rights in court.
As a father, the best thing you can do to ensure continued rights to your child is to be involved in their life. During a divorce, whether on a motion for temporary orders or during trial, fathers need to provide evidence that the children would be well suited to spend time with them. Notably, this applies to mother’s as well, but often moms find it easier to provide this testimony.
When crafting your evidence, be sure to focus on the daily routine just as much as the fun activities. Describing how you take your kids to the zoo occasionally and the park regularly is fun, but if your partner describes that he or she oversees helping with homework, dealing with medical problems, and transporting to and from activities, the court might see you as more of a weekend parent. Being involved also means being involved in more than activities. Socialization, discipline, and mentoring are all areas the court might look at to determine a good fit for custody.
If you find yourself in a divorce or custody battle, you need to be prepared. Providing the court with accurate information is important and providing a full picture of your parenting abilities is crucial. At the law offices of Magnuson Lowell PS, our dedicated family law attorneys are experience in helping dads protect their parental rights. Call today for a free case evaluation.