In New York, fathers are now given equal consideration as mothers in child custody matters. Ideally, divorcing parents will reach a child custody agreement on their own but if that is not feasible, a judge will decide based on the best interests of the children.
If you are a father who is headed for divorce, you may be concerned about your rights to your children, or at the very least, curious. Historically, New York State is known for being old fashioned when it came to custody but the ground between parents is now rather equal.
Today's family courts use the best interests of the child standard, which is the only standard used in determining child custody. This means that neither parent is presumed to have an advantage by virtue of gender, financial status, or age of the children.
Ideally, you and your spouse will discuss your desires, options and concerns and identify the needs and interests of your children in an effort to reach a child custody and visitation agreement. This would be accomplished with the assistance of your respective attorneys.
Negotiation can be a very powerful tool, however, both parents need to put their emotional differences aside to focus on a child custody and visitation arrangement that will be in the best interests of the children. There are several ways that parents can reach such an agreement, but the applicable method depends on the level of conflict and the parents' ability to work together:
- Parents with a mediator (mediation)
- Parents with a mediator, their attorneys and the help of a law guardian
- Through their attorneys
- Attorneys and law guardian (if appointed) with input from the judge assigned to the case
If you and your spouse cannot reach a child custody and visitation arrangement with any of the above methods, litigation may be necessary. Litigation means that you go to court to resolve issues regarding your children. This can be an adversarial process that is used when despite all efforts at diplomacy, the parents cannot reach an agreement.
Common Custody Arrangements
In New York, joint custody means that both parents are responsible for the major decisions in the child's life such as choice of school, religion, and medical care. In contrast, sole custody refers to when only one parent has the right to make these decisions, and the child lives with that parent primarily.
The primary physical residence is where the child lives most of the time. The "primary residential parent" is responsible for making the day-to-day decisions, but both parents share in making major decisions.
With a shared residence arrangement, the child splits their time equally with each parent, and with a split residence, siblings are split between two households.
As a father, you have the same rights as the mother in a child custody case. Hopefully, you will be able to work out a favorable arrangement that you believe is in the best interests of your children, whether this means that you are the primary residential parent, or the mother is and you have visitation.
It's impossible for the court to know the details of your life and what works for your family as well as you do. Because of this, it's best for you and your soon to be ex to have a some degree of flexibility and creativity when you work out a custody and residency agreement or parenting plan.
Keep in mind that the court has its limitations. Case law says that joint custody is not appropriate for parents who are warring or engaged in conflict. In such cases, usually sole custody is awarded to one parent rather than joint custody – this may not be what you want.
If you are a father who is divorcing or otherwise needs his parental rights protected, don't hesitate to contact Peter L. Cedeño & Associates, P.C. for help. With over 20 years of experience protecting the rights of fathers, you can trust in our ability to represent you.