Whether during divorce proceedings or while fighting to establish and maintain a relationship his child, a father can feel like the deck is stacked against him for seeking custody or even visitation rights.
There are many misconceptions that a father has no say in these matters and that the mother is always given preferential treatment. In the past, this may have been true, but current judges and family law courts recognize that it is in the child's best interests to have as strong a relationship as possible with both parents. Courts are often willing to work with a father to establish his parental rights and time with the child.
Here are a few steps you can take, however, to support your case and show a judge that you intend to take your role as a father seriously - and avoid attempts by the child's mother to block you:
Get a paternity test - The court will likely require this, so get this taken care of as soon as possible. If the mother is trying to prevent you from doing a DNA test, work with an attorney to obtain a court-ordered paternity test.
Show up - If you are already involved in your child's life, show up to every event possible. Know your child's teacher. Attend sporting events, parent-teacher conferences, school plays and any other event your child is involved with. Take your child to the doctor and provide care when he or she is sick. "Babysit" as much as possible. Establish your place in your child's life and be invested.
Document everything - Keep a dated journal of everything you've done to be invested in your child's life. Keep track of names and contact information of people who see firsthand the role you've taken and the efforts you've made to parent well.
Nurture your relationship with your child - Establish hobbies together and traditions. The court often takes a child's preferences into account when making these decisions. Not only are you creating a better childhood for your son or daughter by being so active in his or her life, you are showing the court how much this means to you.
Work with a skilled attorney - Make sure you have a lawyer who is experienced in father's rights and knows how best to advocate on your behalf in family law court. The relationship you have with your child is one of the most important relationship you will ever have. Invest the time and resources to protect it.