In the past, courts often automatically sided with mothers in child custody cases. They simply assumed the children were better off with their mothers. However, these days, courts are recognizing that fathers play a vital role in children’s growth and well-being. It is not unusual for fathers to exercise their parental rights in custody cases.

The current child custody battle between Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi and Adam Dell, the father of their 11-month-old daughter, is an excellent example of a father asserting his rights. While this particular case is happening in New York, it could just as easily be taking place in Georgia or any other state in the country.

Last spring, Lakshmi and Dell reached a custody agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, Dell gets to spend seven hours a week with his daughter. That works out to nine visits a month lasting no more than three and a half hours each. Unfortunately, scheduling the visitation can be difficult since Lakshmi frequently travels for work.

According to Dell, he has long been dissatisfied with the agreement and filed court papers in Manhattan requesting more time with his daughter. Essentially, he is seeking sole custody of the child. However, experts speculate he may be satisfied with a shared custody agreement.

Many fathers are finding themselves in a similar position, where they are forced to go to court to assert their rights. While there is no question that children share a special bond with their mothers, the relationship with their fathers is just as important. Whether you are going through a divorce, child custody dispute or a legal separation, it can be helpful to work with a family law attorney who emphasizes fathers’ rights.

Source: People, “Father of Padma Lakshmi’s Child Seeks Greater Custody,” Tim Nudd and Liz McNeil, 26 Jan. 2011