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How Fathers Getting Divorced Can Make a Strong Case for Joint Custody

Fathers in New Jersey enjoy the same protections afforded to mothers, with no legal distinction between the two, at least in theory. Although mothers were once more successful in obtaining custody, courts now recognize that a loving relationship with both parents is usually beneficial to the child. However, fathers cannot be sure they are on the same footing with mothers, and they may need to use additional effort to achieve equitable results.

There are two aspects of child custody in New Jersey. One is legal custody, which means the right to make major decisions concerning the child’s upbringing. The other is residential custody, which means where a child lives. Residential custody can be primary (51 percent or more with one parent) or shared equally. The latter arrangement is often termed “joint custody.”

A divorced father wishing to make a strong case for joint custody should focus on demonstrating that the arrangement will be in the child’s best interests. Here are some positive actions to take:

  1. Make custody a priority — Bring up your desire for joint custody early in discussions with your attorney so that the issue takes a center focus. An attorney experienced in fathers’ rights issues can guide you in demonstrating your commitment to being a devoted parent.
  2. Be involved in your child’s life — This includes participating in education, extracurricular activities and healthcare decisions. Keep records of your involvement, such as attendance at parent-teacher conferences or events. Also document your interactions with the child, including visitation dates, activities, and any relevant communication with the other parent.
  3. Show stability and support — Provide evidence of your ability to provide a stable and supportive environment for the child. Give details about your residence, employment stability and financial capacity to meet the child’s needs, including child care while you are working.
  4. Show an amicable relationship with the child’s mother — Courts often look favorably upon parents who can communicate effectively and work together for the benefit of their child. Show a willingness to cooperate in maintaining a positive co-parenting relationship.
  5. Propose a parenting plan — Sketch out a parenting plan that realistically outlines how joint custody would work to the child’s benefit. Address issues such as visitation schedules, holidays and decision-making responsibilities. A thoughtful plan demonstrates your commitment to being actively involved in your child’s life.

If there is a dispute with the child’s mother about joint custody, you should be prepared to go through mediation. This process is a mandatory step in resolving custody disagreements. It can be used constructively to make a strong showing of your parental commitment and abilities. However, you should take care not to engage in posturing or controlling behavior, which can have negative results.

At the Law Offices of Kisha M. Hebbon in Somerset, we fight tirelessly on behalf of fathers throughout Middlesex and Union counties, New Jersey. Contact us online or call 732-633-2224 to schedule an appointment.

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