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Men face challenges when it comes to custody and child support

As our Quincy and Norfolk readers are likely aware, when a couple decides to divorce or split up, the process typically isn't easy for either party. And while many separation discussions center on the hardships women confront at the end of a relationship, men also face unique challenges, especially in terms of child custody rights and child support obligations.

It wasn't long ago when courts automatically awarded custody of a couple's children to their mother and ordered the father to pay child support. The legal system and society at large assumed women were better equipped for parenting, while men were better financial providers. However, we now know this is not necessarily the case. Even so, courts are slower to accept change than society, and men may still feel the odds are against them in child custody and child support decisions.

When a court determines child custody, the goal is always to consider the best interests of the child. But unless a mother is clearly unfit to parent, she is given physical custody in the majority of cases and the father is allowed visitation rights. While it is possible for parents to share custody jointly, this usually happens only when parents are in agreement with each other on the issue.

When determining child support, fathers may also feel they are not treated fairly by the court system. In most states, including Massachusetts, the parent ordered to pay child support must pay one-third of their net income to the custodial parent. This can be a considerable amount of money, and for some fathers, it can be difficult to reconcile making large support payments when he does not get to spend unlimited time with his children.

For any father who finds himself in a child custody or child support dispute, it is important to remember all parents have a constitutional right to the care, custody and control of their children. In contentious cases, it is important for a father to have the representation of a family law attorney who will fight to have his rights recognized so that he may be given a fair chance to exercise his parental duties.

Source: North Adams Transcript, "Guest Commentary: What men need to know," Rinaldo Del Gallo, Jan. 30, 2013

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