How Often Do Fathers Get Custody?

Fathers often feel like they get the short end of the stick in custody battles. While there's some evidence to support that, every case is different, and you have every right to fight for custody of your child.

Types of child custody 

When it comes to child custody, a father may hope to obtain one or more of the following types of custody:

Legal custody

This refers to the right of a parent to make important decisions about their child's health, education, and welfare. If a father has legal custody, he would have a say in important decisions related to his child's upbringing.

Physical custody

This refers to where the child will live on a day-to-day basis. A father with physical custody may have the child living with him the majority of the time.

Sole custody

This means that one parent has both legal and physical custody of the child full-time. In this situation, the other parent (in this case, the child’s mother) would likely have visitation rights but would not be involved in major decision-making regarding the child. Sole custody is not often given to either parent because courts prefer to have both parents in the child's life when possible (and when it's in the best interests of the child).

Joint custody

This means that parents share legal and physical custody of their child. There are different forms of joint custody arrangements, such as joint legal custody (where both parents make major decisions together) and joint physical custody (where the child spends roughly equal amounts of time with both parents).

Bird's nest custody

In this rare form of custody arrangement, rather than moving between two homes, children stay in one home while parents take turns living there according to an agreed-upon schedule.

Read: Could a Nesting Custody Arrangement Benefit Your Family after Divorce?

It's worth noting that every family's situation is unique, and what works best for one family may not work for another. Ultimately, dads should strive for an outcome that prioritizes their child's well-being and allows them to maintain a strong relationship with their children.

What are a father’s rights to their child?

The rights of a father to their child depend on whether he was married to the mother at the time of birth. Here are some general guidelines:

For fathers who were married at the time of the child’s birth:

  • There is a presumption of paternity. In most cases, if a man is married to the mother at the time of birth, he is presumed to be the legal father of the child.
  • They have custody and visitation rights. A legal father has the right to seek custody or a visitation schedule with their child. This means they can request that their child live with them (physical custody) or that they have regular visitation rights.

For fathers who were unwed to the mother at the time of birth:

  • Paternity may need to be established. If a man was not married to the mother at the time of birth, he may need to establish paternity before he has any legal rights to his child. This can typically be done through DNA testing or by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form.
  • They will have custody and visitation rights once paternity is established. An unwed father generally has rights similar to that of a legal father who was married at the time of birth. This includes the right to seek custody or visitation with their child.

It's important for fathers in either situation to understand that family law varies by state, and there may be specific laws and procedures they must follow in order to protect their rights as a parent. This could include specific forms they need to file and timelines they need to follow.

Do fathers get child custody less often?

In the United States, child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. This means that both parents have an equal chance of being awarded custody, regardless of gender.

However, mothers are still awarded custody at higher rates than fathers. While mothers are still more likely to be awarded primary custody, it is important to note that there are many factors that can contribute to this disparity. Each family's circumstances will play a role in determining which parent gets custody. Your situation is not the same as every other person’s situation, so don't give up hope based on broad statistics. Ultimately, the most important factor in any custody decision is what is in the best interest of the child.

What are the most common reasons for custody battles?

There are many reasons why custody battles may occur during a divorce or separation. Most parents realize that their children need both parents in their lives. However, some situations are more contentious and result in disputes over custody. 

Some of the most common reasons for a custody dispute include the following:

  • Disagreement over parenting style: One parent may have a different approach to raising the children than the other, which can lead to conflict over custody.
  • Domestic violence or abuse: If one parent has a history of domestic violence or abuse, the other parent may seek sole custody to protect their children.
  • Relocation: If one parent is planning to move away with the children, the other parent may fight for custody in order to keep them close.
  • Substance abuse: A parent who struggles with substance abuse may be seen as unfit to care for their children and lose custody as a result.
  • Neglect or abandonment: If one parent has been neglectful or absent from the child's life, the other parent may seek full custody in order to provide a more stable home environment.

It's important to remember that every family situation is unique, and many factors can contribute to a custody battle. In most cases, it's best if the parents work together to find a plan that prioritizes the best interests of their children.

Free downloadable worksheet: Create Your Co-Parenting Plan

What is the best way for a father to get custody?

The best way for a father to get custody is to demonstrate that he can provide a safe and stable home environment for his children and that it's in the best interests of the children to live with him. 

Here are some steps fathers can take to increase their chances of obtaining custody:

Hire an experienced family law attorney

A good attorney can help fathers navigate the legal system, understand their rights and obligations, and make a strong case for custody.

Be involved in your children's lives

Spend time with your children, attend school events and extracurricular activities, and show that you are committed to being an active parent.

Maintain a stable home environment

Make sure your home is clean, safe, and suitable for children. Demonstrate that you have the financial means to support your children.

Cooperate with the other parent

If possible, try to work out a custody agreement with the other parent outside of court. This can save time, money, and stress for everyone involved.

Document everything

Keep records of all interactions with the other parent, including emails, texts, phone calls, and in-person conversations. This can be helpful if there are any disputes over custody or parenting time.

Every custody case is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The most important thing is to prioritize the best interests of your children and work toward a resolution that allows them to thrive.



Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.