How to Get Custody of a Child: Understanding Child Custody for Men

How do I go about getting custody of a child? How do I get custody of my child? How can I get full custody of my child without going to court? Can a father take a child away from the mother? What is a custody order? Are there reliable tips on how to get custody of a child? What are the steps for getting custody of a child? If you are looking for answers to these and more questions, this article is for you.

Child custody cases can arise due to different circumstances, including divorce, separation, or two adults deciding they still want to live their separate lives even after having a child together.

While some custody arrangements are solved amicably by the parties involved, sometimes one parent may want to keep the child from the other parent to punish them for ending a relationship, forcing the aggrieved parent to file for custody. Other times, one parent may be unfit to have custody of the child, which makes the other parent file for full custody in the best interests of the child.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your need to get custody, it is important to know how to prepare for the court battle and improve your chances of getting a court order granting you custody. Custody issues are especially difficult for male parents. If you are a dad interested in learning how to get custody of a child, this article is for you.

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Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

Fathers and Child Custody

Fathers and Child Custody

For many years, child custody for fathers meant getting weekend visitations rights or weekend parenting time with their children, or even much more limited parental time. This is because the law was written under the assumption that mothers are better fitted to have full legal custody of a child than dads. Generally, mothers are seen to be maternal and thus able to anticipate a child’s needs and care for the children better.

However, family dynamics have changed over the years, forcing changes in how custody cases are determined today. While still less common compared to women, fathers have a higher chance of getting full custody of a child than a decade ago.

When a child is born, both parents essentially have the same custody rights, as long as they are recognized as the legal parents of the child on the child’s birth certificate. However, mothers are automatically assumed to be the legal parents to all the children she gives birth to, regardless of their marital status. An unmarried father must establish paternity to show that they are indeed the biological father before pursuing full custody. Most states will not allow men to seek custody of a child if they cannot prove paternity.

While courts cannot discriminate against parents based on their gender, the standards set for the best interest of the child more likely favor mothers since they are most of the time the primary caregiver of the child. For fathers in legal battles for child custody, proving that they are fit to have custody of the child is key, which calls for adequate preparation for the court battle.

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Types of Custody

Before you go full throttle to seek full custody of a child, it is essential to understand the custody types. Generally, custody can be either legal or physical. Both types of custody can be shared equally amongst two parents, or one parent can be granted sole custody based on different circumstances. Parents can also share one form of custody while one parent is granted primary custody of the other type.

Legal custody

Having legal custody of a child gives the parent full parental rights when making decisions on behalf of the minor. This includes decisions about where the child goes to school, religion, childcare, health decisions, medical care, extracurricular activities, and even travel.

Legal custody can be sole or joint. In the case of joint legal custody, parents must agree on major decisions that involve the child. Parents with sole legal custody can make these decisions without consulting the other parent.

Physical custody

This type of custody is granted to allow a parent to live with the child physically. Just like legal custody, physical custody can also be joint or sole. When a court gives joint physical custody, parents have to agree and split the time the children spend in their care throughout the year, generally in a 50/50 balance where possible.

Sole physical custody means that a child permanently lives with one parent, with most courts granting visitation rights to the other parent.

When determining whether to grant sole or joint custody in both cases, family law considers the child’s welfare, health, and safety. While the court may favor one parent based on their ability to meet these requirements, it also takes into account the need for the child to have both parents present in their life and thus work out a plan to ensure the non-custodial parent remains in the child’s life if found fit.

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How to Get Custody of a Child Without Going to Court

Before filing a court case for custody, it is always advisable to try out alternative dispute resolution with the other parent.

Try negotiating child custody arrangements informally

If two parents are reasonable, it is possible to work out a custody agreement and parenting plan through informal negotiations to avoid a court process. This can be with attorneys or without attorneys. Once both parties agree, they can put it in writing in a settlement agreement, parenting agreement, or custody agreement.

Alternative dispute resolution

If the informal negotiations reach a stalemate, it is still possible to agree on child custody and visitation without ending up in family court. ADR (alternative dispute resolution) can be used to solve parenting disputes and child custody using methods such as custody mediation, arbitration, or collaborative family law.

When the parents cannot agree on the terms of the custody agreement outside of court, the court can step in and take on the decision-making process in the best interest of the child through custody law.

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How to Get Custody of a Child in Court

How to Get Custody of a Child in Court

When you set out to file for custody, you need to ensure you follow all the necessary steps to increase your chances of winning. For most parents, getting physical custody is the most challenging part of a custody case compared to child support or legal custody. Here are the necessary steps to take to ensure you get custody of the child.

Consult with a lawyer

While it is not a must to hire a lawyer to get custody of a child, it is highly recommended to get a family law attorney. An experienced attorney knows the law and has handled numerous cases similar to yours, making them best to understand how to navigate the system to increase your chances of winning.

When you have an attorney, you have access to legal advice from the beginning of the process, which prevents you from making costly mistakes that may affect your case. An attorney will let you know the possible outcome of the case, ensuring you do not set unrealistic expectations. For instance, courts only grant 100% full custody if one parent is found unfit to be in the child’s life, which includes the possibility of child abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, and substance use.

If you have found concerns about the child’s well-being under the care of the other parent during the custody case process, seeking legal aid is highly advised. An attorney can file for temporary orders or temporary custody in your favor as they advocate for the best custody determination for the minor child at the end of the case.

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Stay up to date with the child support payments

To improve your chances of winning custody of your child, you need to ensure that you remain current in your child support payments. Not keeping up with the payments can be seen as a lack of interest in the child, which affects your case. Whether you have a formal or informal child support agreement, ensure you keep your end of the deal and keep records and proofs of payment.

Work on your parent-child relationship

Even if the child is not currently in your custody, you need to keep working on your relationship. ensure you contact them and visit them whenever possible, go to their events, and check on their progress. This shows that you are fully invested in the child’s life and have space in your schedule for them.

Create a space in your home for the child

One of the factors courts take into consideration when determining custody cases is accommodation options for the child. You need to set aside a secure, private space for your child in your home if you want to prove that you can provide a safe space for them to live.

Have a plan for meeting the needs of the child

When determining custody cases, the judge also looks at the financial abilities of the parent. To be granted custody of the child, you need to prove that your finances can adequately provide for the child while under your care. You need to have a plan for their care, education, afterschool activities, health care, and so much more. Be ready to prove how you intend to care for the child if they are placed in your custody.

Join a support group

Joining a support group is a fantastic option for parents going through custody cases. These groups offer helpful advice that can make the process easier.

If you are a man currently faced with a custody case, MensGroup is a platform where issues related to child care are discussed. You learn through interacting with other members who have been through the same issues. The men’s rights group on Men’s Group also discusses and teaches on matters related to child support. You will learn a lot about dads’ rights and men’s rights in general regarding custody.


To win a custody case, you need to learn how to get custody of a child. This article highlights tips and information that can help you improve your chances of being granted custody of your child once you go to court. For men looking for reliable advice, help, and resources with child custody cases, Men’s Group is one of the very few modern-day men’s rights groups that help men advocate for their rights, including their parenting rights. By joining, you will be in a place to learn about your rights as a dad while also learning how to live a more fulfilling life. 

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