When parents decide to divorce, many fathers become concerned they will lose custody of their children. The assumption is that courts favor mothers in proceedings because they are perceived as the natural caregivers.

However, in Nebraska, the sex of the parent is not the determining factor in establishing custody. Nebraska courts are more concerned about the children’s best interests.

As courts determine physical and legal custody, they may place children in joint custody of both parents even if the two parties cannot come to an agreement. If an open court hearing leads a judge to believe the children will be in the best position if their parents share custody, that is the decision the judge will make. It does not matter if the other parent consents to this agreement or not.

What are physical and legal custody?

Physical custody is what most people have in mind when they are thinking about custody. Physical custody establishes where the child will live on a day-to-day basis. Joint physical custody means children share their time living with each parent.

Legal custody is different but just as important. This is the right for parents to make long-term decisions about the child’s well-being and how they will be raised. This can include education, religious affiliation, after school activities and more. Legal custody essentially assigns who gets to have a final say in making most parenting decisions. Joint legal custody means both parents must be consulted and come to an agreement regarding those decisions.

Even if the court rules that the children’s interests would be served best by living with only one parent and the father is not the one who wins physical custody, fathers can still have the right to be a decision maker, or even have the final say, in child raising. Joint custody can mean different things based on how the courts view both physical and legal custody in a particular case, and a father is not immediately at a disadvantage if he wants to maintain his role as a parent.