Father’s Rights in A Divorce
Divorce is stressful, and the process can be frustrating. We know you may be scared about what it all means and the impact it may have on you, your children, and your relationship with them. But you should know, as a good and loving father, you have many rights when it comes to the legal process in New Jersey.
The New Jersey legislators are continually updating laws, and any experienced lawyer (especially one focused on fathers’ rights) has a firm grasp on the most current legislation. At Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC, we can help you understand the laws and how they will affect your case.
Impact of a Father’s Presence
In the not terribly distant past, the stereotypical family dynamic was for mothers to be stay-at-home housewives who handled most of the parenting, while fathers worked outside of the home to support the family financially. As a result, fathers were not around as much for the day-to-day child-rearing responsibilities. This meant that the courts would typically lean toward granting the mother primary custody in the event of a custody dispute. Men had fewer rights when it came to custody decisions and other issues in divorce.
Fortunately, times have changed! These days, with both parents working and fathers taking a more active role in their kids’ daily lives, the courts have also evolved to recognize the importance of a father’s presence in children’s lives. This recognition means that in custody disputes and other matters concerning children, mothers are not automatically favored as they were in the past. Men have the same rights as women under the law.
Father’s Rights in a Divorce in New Jersey
What rights do fathers have after divorce? Like mothers, they have rights in every area of divorce, from child custody and visitation rights to the right to child support and even the right to get alimony from their ex-wives. These types of decisions are now gender-neutral. Read on to learn more specifics about a father’s rights in a divorce in New Jersey and the laws pertaining to them.
Who Gets Custody of the Children?
When a couple has children, this is the question on everyone’s mind. Who gets custody of the kids?
In New Jersey, the standards for that decision are based on the “best interests of the child,” and the child custody decisions must be gender-neutral. That means that both parents (regardless of sex) have to be given equal consideration, and the only concern of the judge is what is actually best for your children.
Under New Jersey Statute 9:2-4(c) there are several factors judges must consider when deciding what’s in the best interests of the children. They include:
- The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child
- The parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse
- The interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings
- The history of domestic violence, if any
- The safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
- The preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision
- The needs of the child
- The stability of the home environment offered
- The quality and continuity of the child’s education
- The fitness of the parents
- The geographical proximity of the parents’ homes
- The extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation
- The parents’ employment responsibilities
- The number of children and their ages.
Also, here in New Jersey, you don’t have to go to court to make a case for child custody. In fact, parents are encouraged to come to their own agreement first, with the help of their attorneys or a neutral mediator. When you can come to agreement outside of the courtroom, you will save yourself — and potentially your children, depending on their ages — from the stress of a trial.
As a father, you have a right to equal consideration for custody of your child. New Jersey law looks at two types of custody: legal and physical (also called residential custody). What’s the difference between the two? Physical (or residential) custody is easy enough to figure out: It describes who the child spends the most time with. On the other hand, legal custody refers to having authority over the major decisions that affect your child’s welfare, such as education and health. Judges in New Jersey most often prefer to award joint legal custody, unless there are circumstances in which a child’s best interests wouldn’t be served by doing so.
What is Parenting Time and Visitation?
Your rights as a father in a divorce extend to parenting time. While you may sometimes see the term “visitation” used, here in New Jersey, when it comes to divorce cases and custody, the proper term used in the courts is “parenting time.” The phrase is meant to clarify that the role is one of a parent, not a visitor.
In New Jersey, parenting time plans can take several different configurations, but what’s always at the heart of it is what’s in the child’s best interests. Some common varieties are:
- One primary residential parent, one alternate residential
- Equal or shared legal and residential custody
- Sole residential custody.
More detailed parenting plans arise from these basic custody frameworks, much like creating a blueprint for building a house. Parenting plans can include in-depth schedules of when children will be with which parent. They show who the child will spend important holidays with or where the child will live for summer vacation. As a father, you have the right to parenting time with your child. Interference with custody and parenting time is taken very seriously by the law. Penalties for interference with rights to parenting time depend on the severity of the violation and can include compensatory time with children, economic sanctions and even jail time.
Children are Entitled to Support by Both Parents
It’s not uncommon for fathers to think that, by default, they’re responsible for child support. This isn’t true. In New Jersey, both parents are responsible for child support, “without regard to gender.” Typically, the non-custodial parent, which is the parent who has less time with the children, pays support to the custodial parent.
New Jersey has detailed Child Support Guidelines and worksheets that calculate the exact amount that each parent needs to contribute based on the assumptions that you put into the algorithm. The formula accounts for both income and the amount of time a child spends with the parent, among other things.
If you click the link, make sure to grab a hot cup of tea or coffee and settle in for a while, because the “formula” can look simple to do, but actually, there is a lot more to it. One example of where people go sideways with child support is just accepting one parent’s claimed income (or unemployment status), which results in the other parent paying more in child support than they have to.
The child support formula is complicated. Talk to a fathers’ rights attorney to find out how to correctly calculate child support. An experienced attorney can help you make decisions based on accurate data instead of wrong assumptions, so you won’t pay more than necessary. And if you are a custodial father seeking child support, accurately understanding what you are owed will ensure that your child gets the support from your ex that they are entitled to receive.
Can Men Get Alimony?
The answer to this question is “yes.” In New Jersey, men and women going through a divorce have the same financial rights. You have the right to request alimony from your wife during the process of your divorce if it is appropriate under the law. The courts would then decide to grant or deny your request after evaluating both financial situations and other factors.
One common situation where you might be granted alimony is if you’ve been the primary caregiver at home with your kids, and your wife has been out working and financially providing for the family. If you’ve had to put off career advancement so that you could raise the children and care for the household, then requesting alimony from your wife may be appropriate. There are also different types of alimony, including both short-term maintenance and longer-term payments. What you might get depends on all of the circumstances involved. For a more comprehensive list of the items the courts consider in determining alimony, check out the law here.
Can I Relocate Later If I Have Primary Custody?
The short answer to this question is “maybe.” The longer answer is that it depends on what’s in the best interests of the child. In the past, the court would have to consider 12 factors before making this kind of decision. (It was called a “Baueres Analysis.”) However, that changed relatively recently with a case that went to the New Jersey Supreme Court (Bisbing v Bisbing). Now, the only legal standard in play is the best interests of the child. Requesting or opposing a child’s permanent relocation outside of New Jersey could require a formal court application, especially if the parents cannot agree.
Get Help from a Dedicated Fathers’ Rights Lawyer
When you’re navigating your rights as a father during a divorce, it can feel complicated. You aren’t wrong. It is a very complicated process, and we know there is a lot at stake. Men’s & Fathers’ Rights Divorce Lawyers by Schultz & Associates, LLC is here to advise you in a course of action and fight on your behalf for the best interests of you and your children. Give us a call today at (201) 880-9770 for a confidential case evaluation about your situation. We are committed to helping our clients in every way we can.