10 Things Divorced Dads in Texas Need to Know About Custody
by Patrick Upton and Kristopher Hufstetler
Active involvement is key in any custody consideration.
Being a divorced dad going through a custody case is rarely a simple process. But there are steps every dad can take (and should take) to ensure the best outcome for their children. It is too often the case that divorced dads are unknowingly placed into the box of “Disneyland Dad,” where the perception is that they are the parent where the children can go for gifts, good times, and minimal discipline. Every dad needs to be aware that this often sets the tone for their custody case. Below are 10 important considerations we share with clients going through a custody case.
1. Be inclusive on information regarding the child.
Judges want to see parents who are actively involved in their child’s life and who share information with the other parent. Share information with the other parent regarding the child’s calendar, doctor appointments, teacher meetings, and extracurricular activity schedules.
2. Get on the email lists.
Do not simply make the child’s mom a secretary for information regarding the child. Dads should take an active role by making sure they are registered for any school email lists, student-parent portals, and emails lists for the children’s sports teams or extracurricular activities.
3. Be listed as an emergency contact for the child’s school.
Dads should make sure that if something comes up at school, such as an emergency or illness, they are a point of contact for the school administration.
4. Follow up on doctor visits.
If a dad is not physically present for a doctor visit, he should follow up with the child’s mother about the doctor visit and the child’s health. He should also follow up with the doctor to discuss the visit and any plan of treatment for the child.
5. Follow up on teacher visits.
If a dad is not physically present for a teacher meeting, he should follow up with the child’s mother about the teacher visit. He should also follow up with the teacher to discuss the visit, the child’s academic performance, and the child’s educational experience.
6. Attend activities.
This may need little explanation, but be present for the child’s activities. Attend the sporting events, school plays, dance recitals, spelling bees, and science fairs. Also, don’t stop at being physically present. Be active in the events by simply reaching out to the organizers and offering to help in any way they may need, whether that is taking photographs, handing out flyers, helping with fundraisers, or serving food.
7. Be flexible and accommodating.
When the child’s mother needs some flexibility for a pickup, drop-off, or possession day for the child, be accommodating. The reality is that both parents will need some accommodation from the other parent from time to time and we encourage clients to be accommodating and flexible to the extent their schedule allows. When this flexibility requires parents to exchange dates for access to the child, be sure to identify specific dates to exchange or swap and follow through on that exchange.
8. Document correspondence.
When evidence regarding the custody case is needed, it shouldn’t be comprised of pinky swears and handshakes. Whether it is conversations with doctors, teachers, or the child’s mother, document your correspondence. For example, if a conversation takes place in person or over the phone, send a follow-up email summarizing what was discussed so that it is in writing. Lastly, write everything like the judge is watching.
9. Exercise possession and access wisely.
Don’t just be the fun-time dad. Dads should know their child’s testing schedules and school project deadlines. If the child has an upcoming test or school project deadline, don’t return the child to the mother without having done something to prepare the child for the test or school project. Be prepared for possession exchanges by having extra pairs of sporting equipment, school supplies, or clothing. Don’t simply rely on the child’s mother. Finally, be cognizant of who is brought around the child, especially when it comes to romantic partners.
10. Create experiences for the child and take pictures.
Dads should work on and think of ways to converse with their child and create new, fun experiences for them. Think about ways to ensure the child is well-rounded and involved in a variety of activities and memorable experiences. One thing that dads often forget is to simply take pictures of these memories they are creating.
A simple thing divorced dads can keep in mind during a custody case is that “who we are is what we know.” Each of these considerations and recommendations listed above requires two things of dads, active participation and being knowledgeable. Those two requirements only cost one thing: time. Who a divorced dad is in a custody case can often be determined by his active involvement and his knowledge of his child’s daily life.