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Advisers say courts give child custody to parents who earn it

Mothers and fathers were not always viewed as equals by courts in the matter of child custody. At one time, a divorcing mother could be nearly certain that she would receive custody because of the primary caregiver role she played in a child's life.

But fathers are no longer a family's sole provider. More mothers work outside the home and earn comparable or better money than husbands. Fathers share child-rearing responsibilities, and many of them want more than visitation privileges after a divorce.

Gender lines have blurred in courts, with custodial rights weighed equally between fathers and mothers. Judges decide custody based on the best interests of children, which means either parent can be a candidate for primary custody.

While fathers are increasingly awarded the job of custodial parent, legal advisers say acquiring the primary caretaker role takes more than a request. Parents who hope to gain child custody must show a court why they are qualified to have that position.

A parent of either gender who passes off the daily chores and duties concerning children onto a spouse is not likely to be chosen to care for children full time. True caregiving must take place to convince a court that a parent is involved.

The parent who helps a child meet basic, everyday needs stands out above a parent who skips these activities. Attending to medical and educational needs and contributing to a child's well-being by supporting extracurricular activities are essential.

Parents with substance abuse problems or psychological issues are least likely to be awarded a full-time parenting job. Ex-spouses who display negative feelings toward a former partner or try to discredit the parenting skills of an ex are also not favored by courts for custody.

Experienced family-law attorneys understand what qualities judges seek in potential custodial parents and can provide the best guidance for mothers or fathers who are going through the child custody process.

Source: The Huffington Post, "How to Lose Child Custody," Jacqueline Harounian, Dec. 12, 2011

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