Even though more than 80 percent of American fathers are non-custodial parents, dads today need to know more about their rights in child custody proceedings, according to legal experts. Fathers often assume that only one custody option exists during a divorce and that their ex-wife will end up with sole legal custody of the kids. Although that is one available option, alternatives also exist that can empower fathers to protect their own assets and make important decisions about their children's lives.
Many fathers simply relinquish custody to their ex-wives because they assume the courts will automatically do the same. That is simply not true, according to some legal experts, who say that fathers should be equally involved in decision-making for the kids.
Three custody options exist in a divorce decree. Dad can have sole custody, mom can have sole custody, or they can share a joint agreement. This can relate to physical custody, but it is also applicable to legal custody. If just one parent has legal decision-making rights, he or she can make major life decisions for the couple's children without consulting the ex-spouse. This means decisions such as enrollment in expensive private school could essentially be mandated for the other parent and child support may be allocated accordingly.
If fathers insist on joint legal custody, though, they have a voice in major decisions involving their children. In other words, fathers can veto decisions they find unpalatable, including schooling options and other major expenses. Otherwise, the children's mother may make unilateral decisions that are in the supposed best interest of the kids, but do not take into account dad's financial or social preferences.
Many divorced dads wish they had more time to spend with their kids and that is related to the physical custody agreement. Still, men can assert their rights to parent their children by insisting on joint legal custody throughout the divorce process. By pushing to maintain their rights, fathers can protect their ability to be involved in major decisions for their children, which may prevent unfavorable financial or emotional situations.
Source: Huffington Post, "The multiple meanings of custody," Joseph E. Cordell, Aug. 17, 2012