As a father, it’s natural to have concerns about child custody and visitation rights. After all, there’s a long-standing myth that mothers always end up with physical custody of their children as a result of divorce.

While you’re sure to have questions and concerns, it’s critical to remember that you have legal rights. This includes rights regarding both custody and visitation.

If there is any gray area in regard to whether you’re the father, it’s important to establish paternity as soon as possible. This will put to rest any idea that you shouldn’t have custody and/or visitation rights.

Here are some details to consider when dealing with child custody and visitation as a father:

  • Emotions are high: Both you and your ex-spouse will be dealing with a variety of emotions before, during and after your divorce. It’s okay to deal with your emotions head on, but don’t let them cloud your judgement.
  • The past: How active were you in your children’s’ lives in the past? Even if you were absent to a certain degree, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost all your legal rights in the future. You still have the right to spend time with your children.
  • Child support may also come into play: Along with child custody and visitation, you may have to deal with issues regarding child support. If you’re the non-custodial parent, you may receive a court order to pay child support. In Missouri, the court can collect up to five years support prior to the filing, so you don’t want to fall behind on payments.

One last thing to consider is a modification of paternity-related orders. There may come a point when you realize that your previous order no longer makes sense. For example, if your ex-spouse has gone through a substantial change of circumstances that affects their ability to raise your children, you may be able to seek physical custody.

Just because you’re a father doesn’t mean you should get the short end of the stick in regard to custody and visitation rights. Know your legal rights and take steps to protect them to the best of your ability. This will help you establish a better relationship with your children.