Can An Unemployed Father Get Child Custody?

Raising a child comes with huge responsibilities and every parent is tasked to provide and take good care of the child or children. When a parent is unemployed, it may seem difficult to provide and pay bills that are unavoidable for any home such as food, rent, electricity, or other utilities. 

Things get worse when the parents separate or divorce. If the father is unemployed, it may bring more worries on whether he can get child custody of the child or not. With the current statistics showing more women winning custody than men, this becomes a matter of great concern for any man who is unemployed and preparing for a child custody battle. 

After going through the lawyers’ discussion about this matter, it seems a job is just one among the many factors that the court would consider in any child custody case. Any court would determine a child custody case based on the best interests of the child, and not that of the parents. 

If the father is not formally employed but has the capacity to provide for all the needs of the child, then that is what the court wants from a parent, the ability to provide and take care of the child. In some states that are deemed to be the best states for fathers including Arizona, Dakota, Florida, Virginia, and Alaska among others, fathers have been favored by the law that grants 50/50 custody. 

That means, a father, as long as he is fit enough to be a custodian of the child, is likely to get child custody regardless of his employment status. When he fails to get physical custody, he will still have equal parenting time with that of the mother. 

Why Custody Is Not Based on Employment 

As we did mention above, the court will not look at the parent who has a job before deciding on the custody of the child. It is all about the best interests of the child. There are more factors that the court would consider other than the employment status of the father, and such factors include:

Whether the Child Will Have a Safe Place to Live or Not 

In safeguarding the best interests of the child, the court will want to consider the environment where the child will reside, and whether that environment is safe for the child. If the father is able to provide that safe environment for the child, then the court will take that into consideration along with other factors below. That means, employment is not a single factor when it comes to child custody decisions

Whether the Child Will Get Emotional Support or Not 

Every child has certain needs that a parent must fulfill to foster their self-esteem and confidence. They need to feel loved, they need to be treated with kindness, appreciated, and they need to be praised. A parent that connects well with the child and cares for the child’s emotional needs is in the best place to win custody. Therefore, if a father is in a position to offer enough emotional support, then he is in a position to win custody, regardless of the employment status. 

The Wishes and Preferences of The Child 

If the child wishes to stay with the father, the court will take that into consideration if the child is mature enough and is of age to make decisions that are not influenced by emotions. When this happens, the status of the father being unemployed may not play much since the preference of the child may be taken seriously by the court. 

The Level of Bond or Attachment that Exist Between the Child and The Parent 

How the child relates with the father and the mother is also a key factor that the court will consider before deciding on who to award custody. If the child has a deeper bond with the father than the mother, then the court would not want to break the bond that already exists between the father and the child. 

The level of attachment of the child and the parent is dictated by many factors such as the involvement of the parent in the child’s affairs from a young age, emotional support by the parent, and the general relationship that exists. If a father is more involved and there is a strong bond between him and the child, that bond or attachment also determines the custody decisions of the court. 

Whether There Have Been Cases of Neglect, Abuse, or Violence

Cases of abuse, neglect, and domestic violence directed towards the other parent or the child, whether by the father or the mother is a matter that is taken seriously by any court on matters regarding child custody. That means, if the parent is employed and is guilty of domestic violence, neglect, or abuse of the child or the other parent, he or she may be considered unfit to hold custody. 

If the court proves that the mother is unfit to hold custody of the child due to the cases of abuse, and the father is unemployed, then automatically, the custody is granted to the father, and the mother may be obliged to pay for child support. 

Where the Child Lived After Separation or Divorce 

If the father took custody of the child after separation or divorce, that is also a factor that will be considered by the court. Though on rare occasions, unless the child is of age, will you find fathers taking custody of the child or children before a decision by the court is made. In most cases, and especially if the child is still at a tender age, after separation or divorce, the mother assumes custody until a decision by the court regarding child custody is made. 

How Can a Father Support a Child without Employment?

One of the reasons why the court will still grant custody to an unemployed father is because there are numerous options for the father to support the child without being employed. If the father can prove how he can finance the needs of the child to the court, then it is not a must for him to be formally employed to be granted custody. 

Additionally, if the court finds that the best interests of the child are best placed with the unemployed parent, then the judge may oblige the other parent to pay for child support. In this case, a father may receive child support from the mother after a custody decision is made in favor of the father. 

A father who is unemployed when seeking custody may use his savings while looking for a job or other means to finance the needs of the child. If that father shows potential and ability to care for the needs of the child, then the current status of being unemployed may not matter to the court when making custody decisions. 


As we have discussed, the status of a father being unemployed is technically irrelevant for the court when deciding on child custody. It is like a drop in the ocean since there are many other factors that the court will consider apart from the fact of unemployment. The parent that will lose custody, in this case, a mother, may be obliged to pay for child support when an unemployed father wins custody of the child. 

Therefore, an unemployed father may win custody if the court deems him fit and finds it to be in the best interests of the child.