Many divorcing fathers worry about their rights regarding their children and hope when the dust settles on the divorce proceedings, they will be in a position to maintain a relationship with their kids. General thinking in decades past was that, in a divorce situation, the children belonged with the mother. However, when it comes to child custody these days, in Tennessee and elsewhere, essentially, fathers have the same rights as mothers.
The Best Interest of the Child Standard
A family law expert explains the court’s thinking when making decisions around child custody: they use the best interest of the child standard. He explains the four types of child custody: sole legal custody, joint legal custody, sole physical custody, and joint physical custody. The parent(s) who has legal custody has the right to make major life decisions for the child (medical, education, religion, etc.), while physical custody refers to living arrangements. For example, parents with sole physical custody will have the child residing with them most of the time, while parents with joint physical custody will share parenting time equally.
Equal Importance of Fathers
When courts are deciding on custody, they will look at both parents’ situations: work status, mental and physical health, finances, home environment, etc. They will also consider what arrangement will be in the best interest of the child. Typically, courts believe it is best for children to spend time with both parents, so even if a father is not awarded custody, he will likely be able to have parenting time with his child. Fathers should not assume they have fewer rights than the mother of their child and should remember they are equally important.
In the end, the person who is best able to make decisions for and care for the child will be awarded custody, and that person may be either the mother or the father – neither parent has an advantage or disadvantage, per se. As well, fathers are advised that maintaining a civilized relationship with the mother of their child will help their child custody case. Divorcing Tennessee fathers looking to pursue custody are wise to seek the services of a lawyer experienced in family law, as such a professional can help them navigate what is often a challenging process.