Are Fathers Entitled to 50/50 Custody?

As a father, you may be entitled to 50/50 custody, also referred to as, depending on your state, joint physical or joint legal custody, so long the courts find it appropriate and in the best interests of the child.

Are Fathers Entitled to 50/50 Custody?

There are many layers to this short statement. Before asking for joint or 50/50 child custody, you should be aware of the following:

  • Types of custody
  • Factors you should consider before asking for 50/50 custody

Types of Custody

There are different child custody options, and courts award one or more of these when they are in the best interests of the child.

Physical custody refers to the court’s decision about the parent with whom the child is going to reside after divorce. The court can grant physical custody to one parent (sole custody) or both parents jointly (e.g., 50/50 custody). Usually, sole physical custody is awarded to a parent only if the court rules that the other parent is unfit to or incapable of taking care of the child

Legal custody refers to the decision-making authority granted by the court to one or both parents for the child’s future and wellbeing. Decision-making on behalf of the child includes selecting a school, religion, medical professional, and more. In general, the courts award joint legal custody, which gives both the parents the right to come to a consensus and decide on behalf of their child. You, as a father, may get either sole custody or joint legal custody, depending upon what the court feels is in the best interests of the child.

Primary custody refers to one parent getting full custody of the child. It is awarded by the courts to one parent when, for example, there is evidence that the other parent has abused, neglected, or abandoned the child in the past, or that he/she is a substance abuser and so will not be able to provide proper care to the child. Primary custody is also granted when the other parent is imprisoned or is relocating to another state or country. In primary custody cases, the non-custodial parent is usually given visitation rights. The courts may deem it appropriate for both parents to share legal custody despite granting primary physical custody to one parent.

Joint Custody implies sharing of parenting responsibilities by both parents. If the courts orders 50/50 custody, the implication is that both parents share parenting responsibilities equally. Joint custody can be physical, legal, or both. In general, you and your spouse can come to a mutual agreement about joint custody, or the court can award joint custody including possibly 50/50 physical and legal custody, in which the child spends his time equally at both parents’ homes, and both parents decide 50/50 about the child’s future and well-being. 

Split custody is a child custody arrangement for parents having more than one child, in which one parent gets primary physical custody of some children, while the other parent gets the same custody for the other children. Parents often ask for split custody when one or more of the children have behavioral issues that make it difficult for them to get along with each other, or if one of the children has special needs. In such cases, the court may decide on split custody if it feels that children would be properly cared for and would have a better future being in the sole custody of one or the other parent.

Factors You Should Consider Before Asking for 50/50 Custody

Do you live close to the other parent?

Living close by allows you to visit, pick up, and drop off your child faster and in a manner that does not stress out the child and makes travel convenient for you as a father Our general rule is to live within five miles of your ex if you want to share 50/50 custody, but you can live up to twenty miles apart and still make things work, but that distance makes things more difficult.

How involved can you be in parenting?

The court wants both the father and mother to be loving and caring, and involved in the parenting of the child. If the court believes that you cannot provide adequate care, love, and support for your child in a 50/50 custody, then it can order you to spend less time with the child or award primary custody to the other parent. If you feel that you do not have adequate time to care for the child in a 50/50 custody, you should consider not asking for it.

How will your child react to 50/50 custody?

If you feel your child will hate a 50/50 sharing arrangement and that it would impact him psychologically, make life inconsistent, and adversely impact his growth, will you ask for it to satisfy your ego or to save face with others? We guess not…

Are you worthy of 50/50 custody?

Can you pay the committed monthly child support on time? Can you provide your children with adequate personal space in your home? Are you respectful to the other parent? Have you made a backup plan in case you miss any of your parenting responsibilities, such as picking up the child from school? Can you leave work and be at school or home in case of any emergency?

The court analyzes your willingness and readiness to answer questions like these before awarding 50/50 custody. The court is likely to consider other factors too, depending upon the complexity of the case before awarding joint custody.

Once 50/50 or joint custody is awarded, parents can choose a schedule. Here is an example of Utah’s 50/50 or joint custody schedules. Note that, by and large, other states offer similar schedules. Finally, it is prudent to consult your family law attorney before filing for 50/50 custody and serving the other parent with the paperwork. The likelihood you will receive 50/50 custody increases if you have an attorney by your side helping you maximize the time with your kids.

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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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