Divorce is difficult for everyone involved. In child custody matters, while the court focuses primarily on what is in the best interest of the child, sometimes the basis for arriving at that decision is a presumption of which gender is inherently better at caregiving. The effect that this perceived bias has on fathers often makes them less likely to fight for full or equal custody.
In recent years, many states have enacted laws that adopt a presumption of joint custody that will allow the judge to make such decisions either where the parents cannot agree, or where both parents agree to a co-parenting arrangement. In New York, however, although many recent bills have proposed laws that promote shared parenting, none have passed.
A report from the National Parents Organization rated a third of states with a D+ or worse for having legislation outlining provisions for equal parenting time after divorce or separation. Along with Rhode Island, New York was at the bottom with an F rating, with no language in current statutes for shared parenting.
The Fathers’ Rights movement
The social movement advocating for more fathers’ rights in family law began in the 1960’s, as increasing divorce rates highlighted the legal presumption that maternal custody was always in the best interest of the child.
Some of the chief concerns of supporters are that this presumption makes it almost impossible for fathers to have a fair shot at becoming a custodial parent or co-parenting, and allegations of abuse, especially when if they are false, tip the scales against them too often. Advocates seek to change the social dialogue and influence legislation by addressing several issues:
- Increased parenting time for fathers as a rebuttal presumption to automatic sole custody decisions
- Penalties for one parent’s interference with the court-approved parenting time of the other parent
- Expanding paternity leave rights
- Changing child support guidelines that are arbitrary, implicitly give financial incentives to a parent seeking sole custody, or do not acknowledge nonfinancial forms of support or expenses that are in addition to the monthly support payments
If a father wishes to maintain or have more time with his children after divorce, it is important to advocate for those rights before a judge. Finding out how may be the next important step for residents of Orange County who are fighting for fair treatment under the law.