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Are Father’s at a Disadvantage in Contested Custody Cases?

In courtrooms across the country the common perception is that women have an advantage when it comes to obtaining a favorable outcome in child custody cases. The nature of the woman’s typical role in the child’s life, in most cases, means that they carry a larger percentage of the day-to-day responsibilities of raising and caring for the child. However, although statistics do show a higher percentage of mothers being awarded primary custody in contested cases, the classification of mother does not automatically mean the issue has already been decided before the parties appear in court.

In fact, the Georgia legislature codified the standard that all courts are required to apply when determining matters related to a child such as child custody. Under O.C.G.A §15-11-26, whenever a “best interests” of the child determination is required, the court shall consider and evaluate all of the factors affecting the best interest of the child in the context of such child’s age and developmental needs. Some of the factors enumerated within the statute include:

  • The physical safety and welfare of the child
  • The love, affection and bonding between the child and each parent
  • The child’s sense of security
  • The capacity for each person to care for the child
  • The home environment offered by the parent
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved,
  • The child’s community ties (including church, school and friends)

The court is actually required to look at each case individually, hear the unique set of facts associated with each case and weigh them based on the factors listed above in order to reach its determination. A census study from 2018 showed that fathers made up around 20 percent of custodial parents. However, statistics alone do not give a complete picture. The truth is that the vast majority of court orders for child custody cases originated from an agreement between the parties during the litigation. This means that the father and mother reached a mutual agreement as to who would be the primary and secondary custodian of the child. In fact, studies show that around 90% of contested child custody cases are decided without any interference from the court. This typically occurs during the discussions leading up to major court dates and or mediation as there are several opportunities for the parties to have continual dialogue about the case. Statistically, the number of fathers actually seeking primary custody of their children in custody disputes doesn’t support the notion of an automatic bias working against fathers in the court system.

Regardless, the focus for fathers seeking to be successful in being awarded either primary custody of their children or a stronger voice in raising their children should be on their ability to present their involvement in the child’s life leading up to the dispute. It is far more persuasive to the court if there has been a consistent effort to be involved in the child’s life and not simply posturing for the purpose of litigation. It is important to seek the advice of an experienced child custody attorney if you are attempting to win an argument for primary custody, more decision-making authority in the child’s life or more visitation with your child. Attorneys at the Faucette Law Firm, LLC represent clients in all family law and divorce matters including child custody, child support, contested and uncontested divorce, spousal support, legitimation and modifications. Contact our law firm today for a consultation.