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How Can I Win Custody? Don’t They Always Give Mothers Full Custody?

How Can I Win Custody? Don’t They Always Give Mothers Full Custody?

It’s true that awarding full custody to the mother used to be more likely – with “maternal presumption” and “tender years presumption” laws formerly in effect. But that was then and this is now. Today, in Indiana, each parent begins with essentially equal opportunities to win custody. Nevertheless, if you are a father seeking to gain custody in a divorce, there are actions you can and should take to improve your chances. Here are facts and strategies for how to get custody of a child (and especially, how to get full custody as a father):

Maternal/Tender Years Presumption

It used to be the baseline legal standard in Indiana custody cases that the mother was presumed to be the best choice when it came to providing proper care for a minor child. This “maternal presumption” eventually was replaced by a “tender years presumption” that still favored the mother if the child was an infant or toddler. Both of these presumptive standards are no longer in effect. Indiana courts now operate from the perspective that both parents have equal rights to be considered a custodial parent. In other words, today in Indiana, neither parent is favored over the other.

Actually, joint custody is now the presumptive baseline standard because it is believed that active co-parenting is in the best interests of the child. It is that fundamental goal – serving the child’s best interests – that is ultimately the deciding factor in custody cases.

Keep in mind that it is possible for a parent to have full “legal” custody, covering decision-making rights and responsibilities, but have joint “physical” custody with the other parent (with both parents being responsible for the physical care of the child a significant part of the time). With that said, there are smart moves for how to get full custody as a father.

Create a Plan

Despite Indiana courts’ evolving progressive views on custodial rights for fathers, dads can improve their position for gaining full custody with smart planning and presentation. The first step is to create a plan designed to reassure the court that granting paternal custody serves the best interests of the child. Such a plan should include:

  • Securing and maintaining gainful employment
  • Setting up the home to be a suitable environment for child-rearing; this can include age-appropriate bedding and clothing, safe and stimulating play and activity spaces, other applicable child safety precautions, and more.
  • Planning for the child’s healthcare, schooling, daycare/after-school accommodations, insurance, etc.

Judges tend to favor permanency and stability for the child. Therefore, having these facets already in place can provide impactful proof that the father is worthy of custodial rights and responsibilities. Beyond this, it helps to further demonstrate active and ongoing involvement in the child’s life and upbringing. With that in mind, it’s an important part of how to get custody of a child to keep accurate records of visits and phone calls; and to stay current with child support obligations.

Such proactive planning, organization, and thorough documentation are critical throughout the arc of court proceedings, from preliminary hearings to the final proceedings.

Put Your Child’s Needs First 

Divorce can be a time of tremendous stress and uncertainty not only for the parents but, of course, for the child. Never forget that kids are perceptive, impressionable, and vulnerable. What you do during this difficult time could impact your long-term relationship and also influence the perception of the court. It is never appropriate to use the child as leverage simply to “get back” at the child’s mother.

Rather, when it comes to custody proceedings and determining how to get full custody as a father, it’s always appropriate for a dad to take a step back and view his actions through the same unselfish lens as the court: Act in the best interests of the child.

Key Takeaways:

If you are looking for strategies for how to get custody of a child (especially, how to get full custody as a father), here are some essential insights:

  • In Indiana, “maternal presumption” and “tender years presumption” laws favoring the mother for custody awards no longer apply
  • Now, the court will decide child custody cases in the best interests of the child regardless of parental gender
  • Notwithstanding compelling reasons otherwise, joint custody is normally presumed to be best for the child
  • Nonetheless, obtaining full custody as a father is possible, but requires convincing the court, with clear and compelling documentation and a strong child-rearing plan, that the father deserves primary custodial rights over and above those of the mother

In Indiana, the court approaches child custody cases with a presumption that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for raising the child. Therefore, seeking full custody as a father can be a complex process that can depend on making all the right moves. At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., we are child custody lawyers with decades of collective experience and expertise advising clients throughout the State of Indiana on how to get custody of a child.

To learn more about how to get full custody as a father, contact us today at (317) 972-8000.

This blog post provides general educational material about how to get custody of a child. Being an educated legal consumer can help you make the most of the legal experience in meeting your legal objectives. This information is presented by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice throughout the State of Indiana. It is not a solicitation, nor is it intended to provide specific legal advice. It is an advertisement. Information contained herein is subject to change.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counsel. Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.