In our practice, we talk to many men who honestly believe that the deck is so stacked against them when it comes to custody issues, they would rather just not push the issue. What they fail to take into account is that it’s important for a child to know both of their parents. Having a quality relationship with both parents can mean so much to a child.
In this case study, Family Matters Law Group relates a story about a father who was doing all the right things but needed some help in his custody case. What this father wanted as an outcome in his case will surprise you and give hope to many fathers out there that you can have a successful custody hearing.
A father came to my office for help in a custody case involving his one-year-old son. He needed to file a Petition for Legitimation, Determination of Custody, and a Child Support action.
In the past year, it was estimated that the father was parenting his child approximately 51% of the time. This man was an active father, wanting to be involved in every aspect of his child’s life. He also chose to move forward with his life, even after splitting with the child’s mother. To this end, he began dating another woman.
Unfortunately, the child’s mother did not appreciate that. Upon hearing that the father was dating again, Mother decided to try and stop Father’s time with the child. She also filed an action for child support through the Department of Child Support Services.
This case really brought home the point that fathers do have rights when it comes to their children. This father was doing everything he needed to do and was taking an active role in his child’s life. He was also making a good decision to move forward and take care of himself by allowing himself to engage in a social life that was appropriate.
In Georgia, for a father to have custody rights, they need to prove they are the father of the baby (paternity) and that they are playing a significant role in the child’s life (legitimation). As this father’s paternity was not in question, the fact that he was parenting the child 51% of the time provided ammunition to request custody on the basis of proven legitimation.
The key issue was whether the court would recognize the father’s claim to custody, or just go along with the accusations of the mother.
The first thing I did, in this case, was request all communication between Father and Mother related to picking up and dropping off the child. I wanted a record of exactly how much time this father was spending with the child. Sure enough, the 51% figure was accurate. Since the father was spending more than half of the total time with the child, I let him know we could file for primary physical custody.
To my surprise, even in the midst of the mother acting so badly, the father said that he would prefer that a joint custody arrangement be worked out. He wanted the Mother to play an active role in the child’s life.
After we went to court with our extensive documentation, my client was legitimized and the judge did award joint custody to both parents. My client was awarded sole legal custody when it came to decisions involving the child’s education and extracurricular activities. He is also not required to provide child support to the mother.
I firmly believe that the most important factor in any custody case is what’s best for the family and the children, in particular. It worries me that so many fathers don’t pursue custody because they assume they have no rights or won’t win in court.
This was a good father who deserved an ally in court. He was stepping up and taking care of his child, and even when it got ugly, still put the needs of the child first by asking for joint custody. I was proud to represent him.
If you are a parent in the metro Atlanta area (Henry, Clayton, Fayette, Fulton counties) and you need assistance with a custody case, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at the Family Matters Law Group using our online contact form. I’m ready to listen and see how I can help.