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Navigating Men's & Father's Rights In Family Law Matters

Insights from a family law expert
Photo courtesy of The Ramage Law

Sharon Ramage has spent her entire professional career advocating for families and children, transitioning seamlessly from a role as a dedicated social worker to an accomplished attorney. With a firsthand understanding of the detrimental effects of conflict on families, gained during her time as a social worker, Sharon shifted her focus in 1992 to a legal practice centered on assisting families and children. Today, her primary areas of expertise include family law and special education matters.

What legal rights do men have during divorce proceedings, and how can they protect their interests?

Men have the same rights as women to custody and possession of their children. To protect their interests they need to focus on parenting now before the divorce and be an active part of their children’s lives.   

How can fathers ensure fair and meaningful custody arrangements for their children during and after a divorce?

Fathers need to show they can actively participate in their children's lives. Meet the teacher, help with homework and go to activities. Don’t wait until the divorce is filed to pay attention.

What are the common misconceptions regarding child support obligations for men, and how can they navigate this aspect effectively? 

A common misconception is that equal possession means no child support and is often seen as a way to avoid child support. Equal possession does not mean no child support and the court may very well order one parent to pay child support even with a 50-50 schedule.

What are the steps men can take to safeguard their financial assets and property during a divorce settlement?  

First, don’t hide assets. Gather all financial records, organize and document what exists  — whether jointly held or separately titled by one spouse or the other to get an accurate picture of your estate. If something was acquired before the marriage, document that and obtain records to prove it. Also, the same if by gift or inheritance. Don’t commingle separate property and community property funds. 

How can men actively participate in creating a parenting plan that promotes a healthy and nurturing environment for their children?

First, focus on the children. Consider the parenting time as your children’s time — not yours. If they have activities, take them, even if it falls during your parenting time. Try to have a schedule that is compatible with the other parents. Facilitate the relationship with the other parent. Don’t say negative things about the other parent to your children.

What legal strategies are available for men to enforce their parental rights and responsibilities effectively? 

Pre-divorce, be a part of your children’s lives. If the other parent is denying access, documents and enforcement are available. Don’t respond in kind to bad conduct — take the high road but stand your ground. Don’t acquiesce if the other parent is denying access — take the other parent to court.

How can men protect themselves from false accusations during custody battles and divorce proceedings?

This is a hard one. The most important thing is to get your child into counseling when going through the divorce. Seek guidance in telling them. If faced with false accusations, seek guidance from an attorney skilled in high-conflict custody and obtain mental health professionals who are also familiar with the family court system.

What are the potential challenges faced by men in obtaining spousal support, and how can they secure fair financial outcomes?

Spousal support is designed to get the underearning or non-working spouse back on their feet post-divorce and is designed only to help that spouse meet their basic minimum needs. Document your living expenses and what it will take to meet your basic minimum needs and plan your future. Spousal support is not meant to equalize income and is designed to be short-term.

What resources and support networks are available for men dealing with the emotional and legal complexities of family law matters?

Join a local divorce support group and seek divorce support from a therapist or clergyperson. Only seek legal advice from your lawyer as all divorces do not result in the same outcome.