It is a common misconception that the mother will be granted primary child custody in an Arkansas divorce. In reality, there is no gender preference enshrined in state law. Instead, the court will grant primary custody to whichever parent demonstrates a better ability to successfully raise the child.

Proving this can be tricky, especially for dads who spent most of their time working outside the home. Often, Little Rock child custody attorneys (and family lawyers from around the country, for that matter) see fathers make the same mistakes over and over again.

If you’re going through divorce and seeking primary custody of your children, try to avoid falling into these common traps:

Not being active in your child’s life: Courts like to see dads who are involved in the day-to-day care of their children. If your children are younger, do you help with the feeding, bathing, dressing and changing? If they are school-age, do you help with homework? Are you a regular fixture at school events, little league games and play dates?

Not addressing “fitness” issues: It’s easy for a weekly poker game with the guys to become “my husband is a drinker, a smoker and a gambler” once your divorce heads into court. It’s best to address these issues head-on. If you are a heavy drinker, or if you have criminal charges on your record or a history of somewhat “dubious” relationships, discuss these issues with your divorce lawyer at the outset of your child custody case.

Putting the other parent down: The court’s ultimate goal is to create a custody arrangement that will allow children to develop healthy relationships with both parents. If you say a lot of negative things about your ex, especially in front of your children, the court may worry that you will interfere in the custody arrangement. Further, courts are particularly concerned with the possibility that one parent may taint their children’s opinion of the other parent.

Demonstrating a lack of self-control: Courts are reluctant to award primary custody to parents who exhibit an inability to control their temper and emotions, as they worry it might lead to an unstable home life. Just as bad, though, is a lack of financial control or a perceived inability to prioritize your kids’ needs over your own.

Arkansas fathers seeking custody of their children have rights. It’s best to enlist the help of an experienced attorney to make sure your case is presented in the best possible light.

Source: The Huffington Post, “How to Lose Custody,” Jacqueline Harounian, Esq., Dec. 12, 2012.