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Fathers face distinct challenges to their custody right

In today's society, what were once considered 'traditional' parenting roles are often reversed, or the lines between the roles associated with motherhood and fatherhood have been blurred. More and more mothers are active in the workplace, and father who choose to stay at home and raise their children are no longer an anomaly. Even in Massachusetts households in which both parents work, fathers play a far more active role in the upbringing of their children than in generations past. Unfortunately, however, fathers who divorce still face challenges when attempting to assert their custody rights.

The law is widely known to lag behind social change. While some judges have come to acknowledge and honor the equal role that many fathers play in the lives of their children, this is not always the case. In many custody battles, the mother has an advantage from the very outset, based on nothing more than cultural presumptions. Therefore, fathers who wish to win shared or equal custody must take a string stance from the beginning.

Perhaps the most important aspect of winning the right to share equally in the upbringing of one's children is to assert one's parental rights as soon as child custody negotiations begin. It may be helpful to chart out various parenting time arrangements, in order to have a visual reference that shows how different schedules would play out over a given month. In some cases, fathers who receive an every-other-weekend schedule could go as many as 12 days without spending time with their kids, which no reasonable party could find acceptable.

When working toward shared or equal child custody rights, it is also important to try to remain civil and reasonable toward the other parent. Moving beyond the outcome of any Massachusetts child custody determination, this person will be your co-parent for the foreseeable future. Be wary of establishing a negative communication pattern at the beginning of this new form of relationship, which can be detrimental to all involved. Focus on your desire to remain an involved and caring parent, and communicate that intent to your former spouse, while acknowledging her desire to do the same.

Source: Huffington Post, "Custody Battles: The Top Five Things Dads Should Know Before Setting Foot in Court," Morghan Leia Richardson, May 23, 2013

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