What Can Be Done to Protect Fathers’ Rights in Custody Battles?
There are several effective steps you can take that may result in the type of custody you seek as a father.
1. Negotiate in Good Faith
Most custody disputes are resolved through negotiations, sometimes with the help of mediation. Negotiation is an important role of any family law attorney. A mediator is a neutral third party whose role is to help parents try and reach agreement. If custody is litigated, you lose control of the outcome. This is too great a risk for most clients.
2. Be Flexible with the Other Parent
Allowing the mother more time with your child may not seem like a good way for you to get custody, but New Jersey family law stresses cooperation between two parents. Unless there are legitimate safety issues, refusing to allow your child to have time with their mother is a good way not to look good in the eyes of a court. Two factors, among others, that the court considers in deciding custody in NJSA 9:2-4(c) are “the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child and; the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse….”
3. Stress Your Earning Power
It can be an advantage to earn a higher income than the mother. Because of your earnings, you may be able to show the judge that you’re better able to provide for your child concerning three other factors in the statute: “the needs of the child; the stability of the home environment offered; the quality and continuity of the child’s education….” However, just earning more money does not entitle you in and of itself to custody.
4. Have Good References
A judge may find your claims more credible if others substantiate them. Affidavits from friends and family members stating why they think you’re a great parent may help. If you’re involved in a church or do volunteer work for a nonprofit, affidavits from others familiar with you could be a benefit. However, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in this basket. What is more important and weighted more heavily by a court is seeing you be consistently engaged in your children’s activities and day to day responsibilities, including sports, music, theater, or dance. Do you help prepare meals, put them to bed, read bedtime stories, take them to the doctor, etc.?
Our History of Protecting Fathers’ Rights in Custody Battles
Our child custody attorneys have a long history of helping fathers obtain custody agreements that best meet their needs and those of their children. Our team of custody lawyers at Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC will be by your side to ensure that your rights as a father are well-represented as you go through the process of determining how the custody of your children will be structured.
There are different types of custody, and the court will decide based on what’s in the child’s best interests. A judge will focus on what’s good for your child, not on what you want or what the mother wants either. The best approach is to make the case that what you want is in your child’s best interests. We’ll put our experience and resources to work to help you make that case.
What Are the Rights of the Father in a Custody Dispute?
New Jersey’s child custody statute is gender-neutral. There’s no presumption that a mother or father is entitled to, or barred from, custody. It is presumed that a child is better off when both parents are involved in their life in some capacity. New Jersey law NJSA 9:2-4 makes clear that both parents have a right to custody unless evidence proves it’s not in the child’s best interests.
Traditionally, mothers had an edge in custody disputes, because historically, the family dynamic was that the mother was the stay-at-home caretaker while the father was the wage earner. Hence, the mother would de facto spend more time caring for children. That is no longer the case, as more women work full-time now and more men take on child-rearing responsibilities. In fact, more and more, we hear about high-powered professional men leaving their careers to be stay-at-home dads. We are not suggesting you do that, for a lot of reasons, and definitely don’t do that thinking you will “win” a custody battle. We are merely making the point that the family dynamic has changed. Even so, fathers are still sometimes the victims of the stereotypical distant, uninterested parent of the past.
Our experience will guide you in protecting your father’s rights. We know the ways a judge will view your ability to parent your children. We’ll be sure to feature those abilities in our negotiations for custody and in how we draft your custody agreement.
What Percentage of Fathers Get Full Custody?
There isn’t a solid answer to the question of what percentage of fathers get full custody. A nationwide study of parenting time by Custody XChange, a company that develops parenting time scheduling software, attempted to show the differences in parenting time given to fathers in different states. It concluded that in New Jersey, fathers and mothers most often shared custody equally. But the study didn’t state how many cases were studied or the percentage of cases studied that shared 50/50 parenting time. The study looked at parenting time decisions in Bergen County and nine other counties in the state. It added this qualifier to the study: “The percentages in the study reflect cases in which both parents want custody and no complicating circumstances exist ― such as criminal convictions or long-distance separation.” Nationwide on average, it showed that fathers are likely to get about 35% of parenting time. The US Census stated in 2013 that 17.5% of custodial parents were fathers.
What Types of Fathers’ Custody Rights Are at Stake?
What the rights of the father are in a custody issue is based on state statute. There are different types of child custody in New Jersey. They can be split and shared in various combinations:
- Legal custody: You’re able to make major decisions about your child, such as medical care and education. You do not need to live with your child to have shared legal custody of your child.
- Physical or residential custody: This covers how much time a child lives with a parent and the parent’s ability to make practical, daily decisions about their life. If you have primary physical or primary residential custody, you’ll live with your child more than the other parent. The other parent would be considered the parent of alternate residence.
- Shared (or joint) or sole legal or residential custody: These custody rights can be split by the parents or only one may have them. Typically, legal custody is split. Residential custody may go primarily to one parent during the school year, with the other parent living with the child the rest of the year and is purely a function of how the time-sharing (visitation) schedule plays out. Don’t get too caught up in the designations of primary parent or alternate parent. In practicality, your child will have the benefit of both of you as they grow up.
Can a Mother Lose Custody Rights?
A parent may not be given any custody, not even shared. He or she may choose to not want to be involved in a child’s life. They may be unable to properly care for the child or make appropriate decisions about his or her upbringing. This can happen for all sorts of reasons. However, a parent without any legal custody rights still usually has a right to spend time with the child in a visitation arrangement, but that arrangement may be under a supervised visitation schedule in order to protect the children.
There is a steep hill to climb if either of you intend to argue that one of you has more rights over your child than the other unless the facts establish that one of you is having severe problems. NJSA 9:2-4(c) states, in part, “A parent shall not be deemed unfit unless the parent’s conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child.”
How Do I Show that Granting Me Custody Rights is in My Child’s Best Interests?
Your case for your father’s rights in custody battles must stress how you positively impact your child’s life. You need to show you’re a capable, active parent who loves and cares for your child, with examples of past situations and decisions that make your point. If you haven’t invested time or energy into parenting, starting when legal action arose may be too late. When it comes to how capable and caring you are, actions speak louder than words.
Contact Our Skilled Bergen County Child Custody Attorneys to Protect Your Father’s Custody Rights
If your child’s life and future are at stake, get the legal help you need from attorneys you can trust. Contact us for a consultation with child custody lawyers representing fathers in New Jersey and New York. Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC can be reached at 201-880-9770. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you with the child custody issues facing you and your family.