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Child Custody | Family

Are Fathers Entitled to 50/50 Custody?

8 min read
Francesca Toledo, J.D.

by Francesca Toledo, J.D.

Child custody can be complex. There are many options and arrangements, but courts will always strive to do what is in a child’s best interest. If a judge deems it fair and appropriate, fathers are entitled to 50/50 custody of their children. 

The road to 50/50 custody can be difficult, but Unbundled Legal Help is ready to assist. We can put you in touch today with a child custody lawyer in your area.

Understanding Child Custody

Child custody can take many forms. Various options exist, and choices will depend on what is best for the child.

Physical custody refers to where the child is physically located and lives. Physical custody can be shared by both parents or awarded to just one. It is uncommon for a judge to grant sole physical custody to one parent, but can be done if the judge believes the other parent is unfit.

Legal custody refers to the ability to make important decisions for the child’s wellbeing. This can include where the child will go to school, what religion they will practice, or what pediatrician they see. Typically, parents share joint legal custody, giving them both rights to make decisions regarding their children.

Sole custody refers to a parent having full custody of their child. With sole custody, both parents may have the right to share legal custody, nonetheless. The parent with whom the child does not live (the custodial parent) can get visitation rights to spend time with their child, usually based on a schedule.

What Is 50/50 Custody?

Joint custody, also called 50/50 custody, refers to a sharing of parental responsibility between both parents. Joint custody can be physical, legal, or both. Most often, joint custody is both physical and legal. With a 50/50 custody arrangement, the child would spend time at both parent’s homes.

What Does 50/50 Custody Entail?

It is very helpful for fathers to have decent and communicative relationships with their child’s mother in order to come together and make decisions. When a father has 50/50 custody of their child, they can’t expect to never talk or see the child’s mother again. Cooperation is one of the cornerstones of joint custody.

As a father with 50/50 custody, you can expect to have your child half the time. Make room for your child in your home, plan to spend time with them, and give your child the attention they deserve. Just because your child is only with you 50% of the time does not mean 50% of your responsibilities vanish.

How to File for 50/50 Custody

Filing for 50/50 custody of your children will depend on the jurisdiction, or location. In some states, 50/50 custody is presumed to be the default unless a parent is unfit or unwilling. In most states, fathers need to advocate before a judge to improve their chances for 50/50 custody. Obtaining child custody will include the following steps.

Filing Paperwork with the Court

First, notify the court of your intention to seek 50/50 child custody. Certain documents must be completed, signed, and included in a packet with other documentation, including your child’s birth certificate. File this with the court along with the required filing fees.

Serve the Other Parent

After filing with the court, the filing parent must serve the other parent. “Service” means serving the other parent with the appropriate paperwork, therefore notifying them of your intention to seek joint custody. 

The parent who filed with the court cannot serve the other parent themselves. They must get a person over 18 years of age, a process server or sheriff to do the task. Some states also allow service by certified mail. Service is a critical step, allowing the court to provide a hearing date.

Attend Your Child Custody Hearing

Both parents must attend all scheduled custody hearings. This is a great opportunity for the judge to hear from both parents and discuss a parenting plan that’s feasible for both parents and the child. 

Either parent can elect to either have a family law attorney represent them or represent themselves. It is highly recommended, however, to have the assistance of a qualified attorney, as child custody hearings can be stressful and difficult. 

50/50 Custody Schedules

If you are granted 50/50 custody of your child, you can choose from multiple custody schedules. Which schedule suits parents and child best depends on everyone’s wants, needs, and availability. The most common joint custody schedules include:

  • Alternating weeks: This schedule involves the child being with each parent for one week at a time. The week does not have to start on Monday, as some parents prefer their time to start on Fridays or Sundays. While this schedule works for many, plenty of parents have a hard time being away from their children for an entire week.
  • Two weeks each: As the name suggests, parents get their children two weeks at a time. As with alternating weeks, one of the difficulties with this schedule is each parent having to go so long without seeing their kids.
  • The 2-2-5-5: This schedule allows kids to spend 2 days and then 5 days with each parent. For example, mom gets child Monday and Tuesday, dad gets child Wednesday and Thursday, then mom gets child Friday through Tuesday, and dad gets child Tuesday through Sunday. Parents like this schedule because it allows them to share equal responsibility while varying the days they have their children.
  • The 2-2-3: With this schedule, children will be with each parent two days at a time and then a three-day stretch. For example, mom gets child Sunday and Monday, dad gets child Tuesday and Wednesday, then mom gets child Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This is an easy schedule to follow, allowing both parents to get a fair amount of time with their children.

These are a few of the many schedules available to parents. Parents can work together on a plan of their own, but if this is not possible, the court can decide a fair schedule for both parents and child.

Tips for Fathers Seeking 50/50 Custody of Their Children

Getting custody of your children is no easy task. It involves time, energy, and a willingness to take on the responsibility. However, if you wish to get joint custody of your children, keep these tips in mind:

  • Live close to the other parent: It is easier for everyone when both parents live close to one another. It makes pickups and drop-offs faster, and is less stressful on everyone, including the children.
  • Be present and involved: Courts love to see an involved father. Be sure to provide as much love and support to your child as possible. Strive to be there for all of the important moments and the times they need you most.
  • Pay your child support: If the court previously determined you needed to pay child support, be sure to make those payments consistently and on time every month. 
  • Make accommodations for your children: Providing your kids with their own space in your home is essential. It shows the court you are making room for your child and want to make them comfortable.
  • Document your visitations: Keep a calendar or other proof of time spent with your children. This is a tangible way to show the court you are making your kids a priority, and serves to help you should the custody battle escalate. 
  • Have a realistic backup plan: Although it’s easy to forget these things, have a backup plan for your kids. For example, if your child gets sick at school, will you be able to go pick them up? Do you have reliable childcare should you need it? Perhaps your parents or family members can help out. These are critical things to think about when considering 50/50 custody.
  • Be courteous toward the other parent: Put your feelings aside for your child’s sake. Be respectful and kind to the other parent, especially in front of your child. 

In the end, the court will do what is in the child’s best interest. If you wish to gain 50/50 custody of your children, now is the time to make appropriate changes and show the court you are ready and willing to care for your child.

Do Fathers Need to Pay Child Support if They Have 50/50 Custody?

It depends. In joint custody cases where there is an income disparity, then yes, the higher-earning parent would pay child support to the lower-earning parent. A child should expect to have about the same standard of living at both parents’ homes. The court may need to make provisions for child support to make this possible.

If the father with joint custody is not living with the child, then the father may still need to pay child support. It’s generally easier to share custody than it is to exempt oneself from child support.

Having an Attorney Can Make a Difference

Child custody cases can be challenging, exhausting, and include sudden changes. You want the best for your child, and you may believe that includes 50/50 custody. Nevertheless, representing yourself may make that difficult to communicate. A family law attorney will be prepared to handle your child custody case in a way the court understands, helping to ensure the most favorable outcome for all parties involved.

An unbundled lawyer allows you to get the legal services you need without the high price tag. Your unbundled family lawyer can represent you during the most important parts of your case, while you handle everything else. Having the guidance and support of a lawyer during your custody battle is invaluable.

Unbundled Legal Help believes everyone deserves to have affordable legal help. We have a long list of unbundled attorneys we work with, ensuring you get connected to one that suits your needs. Unbundled legal services start at $500 to $1,500, considerably less than hiring a traditional attorney.

If you’re a father wishing to get 50/50 custody of your children, do not go at it alone. We can connect you today with a child custody lawyer in your area.

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