Father’s Rights in A Divorce? You Bet. (but actually, it’s not a bet at all!)
Divorce is stressful and the process can be frustrating. We know you may be scared about what it all means as well as the impact it may have on you, your children, and your relationship with them. As a good and loving father, you have a boatload of 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 Father’s Rights) has a firm grasp on the most current legislation—and can read all the boring laws for you!
Impact of A Father’s Presence
In the not-too-recent past, the stereotypical family dynamic was for the mothers to be a stay-at-home housewife and parent while the father 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 towards granting the mother primary custody in the event of a custody dispute.
Well. times have changed! These days, with either both parents working or fathers taking a more active role in their children’s daily lives, the courts have also evolved to recognize this when there is a custody or visitation dispute.
Who Gets Custody?
This is the question on everyone’s mind. With whom will the kids live?
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.
There are several factors a judge must consider when deciding what’s in the best interest of the children.
- 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 a mediator or their attorneys.
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 (aka residential). What’s the difference between the two? Physical (or residential) custody is easy enough to figure out: Where does the child live and spend the most time? On the other hand, legal custody refers to being involved in the major decisions that affect your child’s welfare, such as education and health.
Visitation and Parenting Time
These two terms are used interchangeably. Your rights in a divorce to equal consideration also extend to visitation. Often, people use the term “visitation rights,” but here in New Jersey, when it comes to divorce cases and custody, the courts tend to use the term “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 interest. Some common varieties are:
- One primary residential parent, one alternate residential
- Equal or shared legal and residential
- Sole residential
A more detailed parenting plan arises from those building blocks, much like creating a blueprint for building a house.
It’s not uncommon for fathers to think that they’re responsible for child support by default. This isn’t entirely true. In New Jersey, both parents are responsible for child support, “without regard to gender.”
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. Talk to an attorney to find out how to correctly calculate the child support so you can make decisions based on accurate data instead of wrong assumptions.
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 this might be the case 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. For a more comprehensive list of the items the courts consider in determining alimony, check out this resource.
Can I Relocate Later If I Have Primary Custody?
The short answer: Maybe.
The longer answer: 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 Interest 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.
An Experienced Men’s Rights Divorce Lawyer
When you’re navigating your rights as a father during a divorce, it can feel complicated. You wouldn’t be wrong. It is complicated, and we know there is a lot at stake. MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey™ is here to map out a course of action and fight on your behalf for you and your children’s best interests. Give us a call today at 201.552.3394 or contact us online to chat confidentially about your situation. It is our commitment to you that we will bring our A-game every time to help you any way we can.