Getting divorced is rarely easy and can involve a significant amount of conflict. When children are involved, both spouses should be mindful of their interests. However, children sometimes are used as pawns by parents who are angry with their spouses during divorce. Because mothers were historically favored in child custody and divorce decisions, men who are preparing for divorce might understandably be worried about protecting their rights. An experienced divorce lawyer in New Jersey at Ziegler Law Group, LLC can work to protect divorce rights for men.
Here's some information about New Jersey divorce laws for men to help you understand how they might affect your case.
History of Divorce Laws for Men in New Jersey
In the past, courts typically favored mothers in divorce cases since they tended to be stay-at-home parents while the husbands went to work to provide for their families. Because of this division of labor, women handled most of the parenting responsibilities, and fathers were typically not around to handle the day-to-day aspects of raising their children. Many courts would award the mothers with primary custody while giving fathers infrequent visitation. A common type of order would be for a father to have the children every other weekend and for a longer period during the summer months.
Thankfully, things are different today. In many cases, both parents work outside of the home. Men play a more active role in raising their children. The laws have changed as the courts have recognized that children benefit the most from having frequent contact with both parents. In custody disputes, courts no longer automatically favor the mother and instead consider multiple factors when determining what is in the best interests of the children. New Jersey family law now recognizes that divorce rights for men are the same as for women.
Divorcing fathers have the same rights in all aspects of divorce, including child custody, visitation, child support, and alimony. Courts must make these decisions on a gender-neutral basis.
Custody and Divorce
A major concern when a couple shares minor children is who will get custody. Courts base custody decisions on what is in the best interests of the child rather than what either parent wants. Both parents must be given equal consideration. Courts consider multiple factors that are listed in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c) when making custody determinations, including the following:
The ability of each parent to cooperate, communicate, and agree on child-rearing issues
Whether either parent has a history of interfering with the other parent's time with the children
Whether one spouse is likelier to encourage the children to have a meaningful relationship with the other parent
The relationship the child has with each parent and any siblings
How well the child is adjusted to his or her home, school, and community
Any substantiated history of domestic violence and/or child abuse
The child's physical and emotional safety when in the care of either parent
Each parent's safety from physical abuse by the other parent
If the child is of a sufficient age and level of maturity, the child's preference
The child's needs
The stability of the home offered by each parent
The geographic proximity of the two parents' homes
How much time each parent has spent with the child before the divorce
Each parent's employment responsibilities
The number and ages of the children
You have the right to equal consideration when you go to court for custody of your child. In many cases, it's a good idea to try to negotiate a parenting agreement with your spouse. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement, you'll both be likelier to be happy with the outcome than if you leave the decision up to the court.
Understanding Custody and Parenting Time
Custody refers to both legal custody and residential custody or parenting time. Legal custody is who has the authority to make decisions for your child's medical, educational, and religious needs. Decision-making authority can be shared between the child's parents or solely granted to one parent.
Parenting time refers to the time a child spends with a parent. As a father, you have the right to parenting time with your children. Parenting time can be arranged in several ways, including equal or shared legal and residential custody, one parent as the primary residential custodian with the other serving as the alternate, or sole residential and legal custody.
If you and your spouse can't agree on a parenting plan, you will each need to prepare a proposed plan and submit it to the court. The judge will consider the best interests of the child factors, review your plans, and make a decision accordingly.
Child Support and Divorce Rights for Men
Courts expect both parents to contribute to their children's upbringing, and both parents are responsible for paying child support. In most cases, the parent who spends less time with the children will pay child support to the parent with primary residential custody. Courts use the state's child support guidelines to calculate the responsibility of each parent for making contributions. The guidelines take into account each parent's income and how much time the children spend with each parent, along with other factors.
Alimony and Divorce Laws for Men
Men have the right to seek alimony from their wives in divorce in New Jersey. Alimony determinations are made on a gender-neutral basis. If you and your spouse have a substantial disparity in income, you can ask the court to order your spouse to pay alimony. The court will consider whether an alimony award is appropriate after evaluating your financial situation, your spouse's financial situation, the length of your marriage, and other factors.
If you have been a stay-at-home dad while your wife worked or have put off your career to benefit your wife's career, the court might find that an alimony award is appropriate. Whether you might receive alimony and the specific type will depend on the circumstances. A divorce lawyer in New Jersey can review your situation and explain whether you might be able to secure alimony from your wife in your divorce.
On the other hand, if your wife has stayed at home as the primary caregiver for your children and has put off her career to benefit your advancement, you might be ordered to pay alimony. If you think that alimony might be an issue in your divorce, you should speak to an attorney for help with understanding what to expect and the potential tax implications of an alimony order. A lawyer might be able to negotiate the issue of alimony to protect your rights.
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey
Thankfully, courts are no longer allowed to consider the gender of divorcing spouses when making decisions about child custody, support, or alimony. However, it's still a good idea to work with a lawyer who is prepared to advocate for your rights as a father. The attorneys at Ziegler Law Group, LLC believe that men's rights deserve to be protected in divorce just as much as women's rights. To learn more, contact us for a consultation today by calling (973) 533-1100.
For the general public: This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Ziegler Law Group LLC for information and educational purposes only. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice to any reader. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice you obtain from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
For attorneys: This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation/representation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines or the current law what might be upheld or viable one day may be changed or modified the next. As such, all of the content of this entire blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for specific individualized advice to clients without, again, further research or a formal consultation with our professionals.