Over the past 75 years or so, fathers have sometimes been told they are secondary parents or even “visitors” in their children’s lives. This is changing, and Arizona law rejects this characterization. Today, Arizona prohibits courts from preferring one parent’s proposal for legal decision-making and parenting time simply because of gender.
Instead, legal decision-making and parenting plans are to be made in the children’s best interest. Furthermore, assuming that a strong relationship with both parents is in the children’s best interest – and Arizona law presumes that it usually is – courts are to adopt parenting plans where legal decision-making authority is shared and which maximize each parent’s time with the children.
The law may be gender-neutral, but some people still act as if fathers are merely backup parents for mothers, who are considered the primary caregivers. And, mothers have received the lion’s share of research into parenting.
The truth is that fathers do much more than provide child support and a safe weekend house. Fathers provide direct benefits to child development, social competence, emotional regulation and performance in school. Indirectly, they can help their kids with self-regulation by being a supportive partner to their children’s mother.
If you have broken up with your kids’ mother, it is crucial that you continue to provide these benefits. Fathers are fundamental to their children’s wellbeing. A change in family structure can be a challenge, but you should do your best to maintain a respectful, cooperative relationship with mom.
Examples of the benefits fathers provide based on research
According to research, kids who have sensitive and supportive dads develop higher levels of social competence and have better relationships with their peers.
Dads can help their kids perform better in school and develop advanced language skills by providing learning materials and speaking with their kids frequently, even if they don’t live full-time with their children.
Regardless of which parent they live with, kids with regular, positive contact with their dads tend to do better at emotional regulation than those who have no contact with their fathers.
Dads can also positively influence outcomes for their kids by creating a respectful, cooperative relationship with the kids’ other parent. When there is a supportive coparenting relationship, kids tend to do better at self-regulation and have fewer behavioral problems. By contrast, hostile, unresolved conflict between the parents can be detrimental to the kids’ wellbeing.
Mothers and fathers should value the father-child relationship
Fatherhood can be challenging, especially after a divorce or breakup. You won’t always get the credit you deserve, but you can be sure that your presence has a real impact on your kids.
Regardless of your family structure, both parents need to meet their kids’ physical needs and make sure their kids feel loved and accepted for who they are.
Everyone involved in a child’s life needs to recognize the importance of the father’s role.
If you aren’t getting enough time with your kids, it may be possible to get a child custody agreement or to modify your existing arrangements. Talk to an experienced family law attorney to discuss your options.