In New York and all other jurisdictions across the Country at the outset of any child custody dispute, parents are equally eager to gain legal rights and responsibilities over their children. However, fathers may face an uphill battle when it comes to securing a fair custody arrangement.
New York has eliminated the “tender years doctrine” which was a legal presumption that mothers were entitled to sole custody with limited visitation to fathers. This changed the prior law in Colonial America which granted fathers custody of the children after divorce. Despite the progress, many fathers believe they are still not getting a fair shake in New York custody cases.
Factors Influencing Child Custody Outcomes
In the past, gender was a significant factor in determining child custody. Traditionally, custody disputes resulted in mothers being awarded physical custody, while fathers were granted visitation rights. This standard approach did not consider the best interests of the child. Fortunately, the law has changed dramatically, and now gender is not a factor in custody cases. Instead, judges look to many factors to determine the best interests of the child. These factors include (in no significant order):
● The child’s preferences: While the court considers the child’s parental preferences, it does not follow them blindly. If the child is old enough and mature enough to express their wishes, the judge will take those preferences into consideration, but the final decision remains with the court.
● Parental fitness: The court will consider each parent’s physical and mental health, as well as any history of substance abuse, criminal activity, or domestic violence. The judge will also consider each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment for the child.
● The child’s relationship with each parent: The court will look at the relationship between the child and each parent, including who has historically been the primary caregiver. The judge will also consider how involved each parent has been in the child’s life up to that point.
● Geographic location: If one parent lives significantly closer to the child’s school, doctors, friends, and family members, the court may favor that parent for physical custody to maintain stability for the child.
● The child’s needs: If a child has specific educational, medical, or other emotional needs, the court will consider which parent is better suited to meet them.
It is important to note that while none of the above factors explicitly include gender this is often inseparable from the equation based on stereotypical roles. Mothers may find themselves at an advantage when seeking custody because of their role in the household. Mothers have traditionally taken on the primary caregiver role, which gives them an edge in the Court’s assessment of what is in the child’s best interests.
Challenging Gender Bias in New York Custody Cases
Whenever appropriate New York judges award equal parental rights to both parents and/or respect amicable agreements reached through negotiation. However, when an amicable solution cannot be reached court’s decide which parent will be awarded custody. They base their decisions partially on who can provide for the child’s needs and foster a healthy environment. If you are a father seeking custody and believe you are experiencing gender bias in court an experienced family law attorney can challenge this and help you achieve the most positive outcome for yourself and your child.