When Your Spouse Is an Unfit Parent: A Father's Guide to Securing Full Custody

It is traditionally more difficult to fathers to gain full custody and placement of their children in divorce cases. The court still idealizes the typical American familial structure of a father who works full-time and a mother who provides primary nurturing care to children. However, some mothers can be emotionally absent, verbally or physically abuse, or neglectful in their treatment of their children. If you are concerned that the mother of your children will be an unfit parent for your children, you will need to fight for full custody to ensure their well-being. Here are some things you can do to help win your case and provide the best home for your kids. 

1. Make yourself look like the best possible candidate for full-time parenthood. 

The courts take the time to assess when is the best interest of your child. You'll need to make sure you make the adjustments in your life to show that you are willing to sacrifice and provide opportunities for your children. Simple changes you can make include:

  • staying or moving within their school district. Moving schools can be a big change for kids, and courts like to provide children with as little upheaval as possible. Show that you are willing to keep existing schedules and extracurricular activities. 
  • maintaining good relationships with friends and relatives. Courts like to see that you are striving for your child to wholesome relationships with other family members. Living close to Grandma is a nice bonus, and having support from other mother-like figures, such as an aunt with a stable household, can be helpful. 
  • adjusting your work hours. When you adjust your hours, you show that you are available for important family responsibilities like school pickup and drop-off, bedtime and dinner time. 
  • saving money. Having extra money shows that you plan on being stable with paying bills and child support.

2. Document instances where your spouse proved herself to be an unfit parent. 

This is one of the most important aspects of your case. A court will not cut children off from their mother unless there is a good reason. So, in addition to making yourself look like a great candidate for custody, you need to help the court see the truth about your spouse. You can:

  • keep a journal with dates that detail specific instances where your spouse was abusive or emotionally distant from your children.
  • take pictures of poor living conditions or injuries that show abuse or neglect.
  • request that other close friends or family members testify that your former spouse is not consistent or emotionally available.
  • make a record of actions that show inconsistency or bad habits like gambling, drug use, or poor handling of resources.

3. Be a model citizen.

During your custody battle, your former spouse will be using the same tactics: making herself look great and pointing out your bad traits. However, it's better to rise above the criticism and behave professionally and kindly to others, show up well-dressed and on time, and make an effort to be consistent and happy in your interaction with your children.

It's important to be on your best behavior even when you think no one is watching. Use clean language and never bad-mouth your ex-spouse in front of your children. Judges will question your children privately on how they feel at home and what their parents do and say. Children are often guileless and will relate their relationship honestly. If you have a firm relationship with your children and are consistent as a parent, this will show in court and will help your case immensely.

For more information on gaining custody of your children as a father and preventing an unfit mother from having access to your children, talk to a child custody lawyer in your area.