What fathers can do about child custody, support issues

Some Florida fathers who are unmarried or divorced might struggle to get access to their children or to keep up with child support payments. Although courts are supposed to treat parents equally, mothers still tend to get custody, and 80 percent of custodial parents are mothers.

In some cases, fathers struggle to keep up with child support payments. However, they should not simply stop paying. First, they should continue to pay what they can. Next, they may consider hiring legal assistance to ask the court to modify the payments. This will not change any child support debt the person owes, but future payments might be lowered.

Some fathers may struggle to get access to their children for various reasons. One parent might file a protection order against the other parent. A father who is facing a protection order might see his children with witnesses present. There might be legal remedies available, but fathers who are unmarried may need to establish their paternity before they can seek custody of their children. If a father waits or if a court has to seek out the father to establish paternity, it might be more difficult to resolve issues around paternity and custody.

If the mother is already the main caregiver, a court is unlikely to change that and give a father custody unless the mother is not fit to care for the children for some reason. However, parents might agree to a shared custody arrangement and parenting plan. They could negotiate a schedule that suits them and their children. Some parents even agree to keep the marital home and have the children live there while the parents take turns staying there. More commonly, the child may move between their households every few days or weekly. A parent who does not have custody may still have a generous visitation schedule.

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