Interviewer: And then also in terms of child custody, I’m sure there’s another misconception that you mentioned, where fathers believe they will be shut out of their children’s lives. Is it true that the wife automatically has physical custody of the children?
While True Decades Ago, Most Parents Now Have a Presumption of Equal Rights
Tanya: No, not at all, particularly in today’s world. Currently in New Jersey, we have a presumption that parents have equal rights. So that means the courts start out thinking that both parents have equal rights to the children. Then from there, the court has to consider the best interest of the children.
The Courts Will Always Consider What Arrangement Is in the Best Interest of the Children
What has been the pattern during the marriage? Is it possible that the father did not have an active role in their care and the mother was the primary caregiver? If the father traveled for work, the likelihood is that the mother will be awarded primary custody of the children and the father would have a regular parenting schedule that works both for his schedule and that of the children.
On the other hand, I have cases where the fathers do everything. They take the children to school in the morning and they are very active in terms of participation. In that case, a 50/50 custody arrangement is common. This arrangement is becoming very commonplace these days.
The Courts Examine the Fitness of Both Parents
And then of course, I have cases where the fathers are awarded sole custody. I have handled a couple of cases where the mothers were alcoholics and the father received sole custody of the children.
So when there’s an issue of fitness, then that’s really where the custody issue is going to go completely one way or the other.