If you are a father who is facing a child custody dispute in New York, you may have some questions and concerns about your rights. Unfortunately, some pervasive myths about fathers’ rights remain about fathers’ rights in child custody cases.
Mothers always get custody of the children
This is one of the most pervasive and harmful myths about fathers’ rights in child custody cases. The truth is that New York courts do not automatically favor mothers over fathers when deciding custody matters.
Instead, they apply the “best interest of the child” standard, which considers various factors such as the child’s age, preferences, needs, health, education, safety, stability and emotional bonds with each parent.
The court also considers how well-equipped each parent is for taking care of the child’s needs, as well as how willing they are to work with each other for childcare matters.
Fathers have no say in important decisions about their children
Another common myth is that fathers have no legal rights to participate in making important decisions about their children’s lives, such as medical care, education, religion or extracurricular activities. This is not true.
In our state, courts dictate custody into two forms, physical and legal. Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make major decisions affecting the child’s upbringing. Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with.
The court can award joint legal custody to both parents, sole legal custody to one parent or both. If you have joint legal custody, you have an equal say in making important decisions about your child’s care. If you have sole legal custody, you have the exclusive right to make those decisions. However, even if you do not have legal custody, you still have the right to access your child’s health, education and welfare records.
Fathers cannot get sole or primary physical custody of their children
Another myth is that fathers cannot get sole or primary physical custody, meaning that they cannot have their children live with them most of the time. This is also false.
In order to do so, fathers may need to establish that the mother is unfit or unable to provide a safe and stable environment for the child, or that they have a stronger bond and relationship with the child than the mother. They may also need to demonstrate that they can meet the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs, and that they can facilitate a positive and frequent contact with the other parent.