Fathers Should Get An Automatic 50% Child Custody

In Child Custody Issues, Child Support, Parental Alienation, Strategy Issues on September 24, 2008 at 9:21 am

Here’s an extract from my weekly column,  “What’s the Point?” which appears on Tuesdays in the Santa Monica Daily Press. Original column here.

 When a man is first told he is going to be a father, naturally the expectations of what the future will look like pop into his head. He may think of fishing trips and baseball games, ballet recitals and happy holiday memories being created. 

At first he and mom, are getting along great, they both agree on what needs to be done to properly raise a child. Mom’s in charge a lot, at first, because of the necessity to breastfeed, attend to the endless needs of a newborn and her own maternal instincts. This works at first, but it also sets a pattern for dad’s relationship with the child. Mom’s in charge and dad does what mom says to provide for the growth and well-being of the newborn. 

That pattern continues, and hopefully in healthy relationships the parties begin to equalize as the baby becomes a toddler and mom can back off and dad can take on a stronger role.

But not always. Sometimes, the relationship stays imbalanced, those are the ones I think I was seeing this weekend – the detached fathers who have stepped back from an active role in their family, and that’s a shame. They should be contributing and directing the growth and setting the boundaries for their children as much as Mom, if not more.

Sometimes a divorce happens. Then the parties have to come up with a written agreement on how to parent their child. Most parents don’t have too much conflict over this. Thanks to a common heritage, or at least a common set of desires, the Parenting Plan can fairly easily be agreed to. Mom gets Mother’s Day, Dad gets Father’s day, they alternate the big holidays, etc. 

Sometimes though, there is the Grand Battle Royale. Where one parent doesn’t want to share the child. Usually it is mom, who is too attached to her child, and she feels that Dad is a bad influence, lacks parenting skills, is too indulgent, or too strict, “he never shows up on time, he never returns the child on time”, and the most common complaint is that “he has a new girlfriend who is inappropriate.”

This is where the Parenting Plan becomes the roadmap of your relationship, not only with your child, but with your ex. The Parenting Plan will determine when you as a father have time with your child. If you have a cooperative ex, this can be a very flexible agreement, as simple as, “we’ll share the kids”, other times you need to have an excruciatingly specific plan.  This plan will determine how much, how long and how often you have to interact with your ex and your child. If she’s still angry and bitter, the more specific the plan, the easier it will be to have a court, or the police enforce it, and that means the fewer headaches dad will have.

Married dads don’t get to spend a lot of time with their kids, divorced dads get even less. There are few years in which a father has the opportunity to have any long lasting positive effect on his children, he should spend what few hours he has, really making a difference. That’s why I think that more fathers should step up to the plate and take a stronger role in their children’s life. It should be mandatory that if you divorce and have kids, you automatically have the kids 50% of the time.

That wont be popular among many divorced moms, partly because they are still angry, and for some, because they don’t want to see a reduction in their child support. But the reality is that, as a society, we need to have more men, acting like men, and teaching their children what it means to be a man, and that includes their daughters. So that they know what to expect of their future spouses.

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