How Fathers Win Full Custody in a New York Divorce

Historically, New York family courts have leaned toward awarding mothers full custody of the children. But in recent years, there has been a shift towards recognizing fathers as full custodians of their children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, custodial fathers rose from 16 percent in 1994 to 20 percent in 2018. Today, more fathers are seeking equal parental rights and opportunities.

While it can still be challenging for fathers to gain full custody, it is not impossible. In this article, we examine the parental rights of fathers in New York divorce cases, why dads often face difficulties in gaining full custody, and strategies to improve their chances.

Challenges Faced by Fathers in Custody Battles

In the state of New York, both parents have equal rights to custody, regardless of their gender. The court's primary focus is the child's best interests, aiming to create a custody arrangement that promotes stability, supportive relationships, and a wholesome upbringing for the child. The court considers various factors in granting full custody, giving priority to factors like:

  • The child's relationship with each parent
  • Any history of child abuse, neglect, or substance abuse issues
  • Each parent's ability to provide for the child's physical and emotional needs
  • The child's preferences (if they are old enough to express them).

Unfortunately, fathers have traditionally been at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining full custody of their children. Despite evolving societal norms and an increasing emphasis on shared parenting, certain factors contribute to this perceived bias.

For example, gender stereotypes commonly assume that mothers are inherently more nurturing and better equipped to meet children's emotional needs. Additionally, the deep-rooted notion that fathers should be the breadwinners tends to undermine their role as primary caregivers. The biased presumption that fathers are less involved in childcare responsibilities means the court may be more hesitant to grant a father full custody.

Strategies to Improve Chances of Winning Full Custody

Fathers who have actively participated in their children's lives and can demonstrate this to the court are more likely to have a stronger case for full custody. Fathers should consider the following essential strategies when seeking custody in New York.

1. Maintain a Consistent and Loving Relationship

It is crucial for fathers to maintain a strong and consistent presence in their children's lives throughout the divorce proceedings. Fathers seeking full custody must demonstrate the strength of their relationship with their children. Consistent involvement in daily routines, school events, medical appointments, extracurricular activities, and day-to-day parenting duties shows the father's commitment to their child's well-being. Being an attentive and loving parent will help establish the necessary grounds for full custody.

2. Document Everything

Fathers must gather evidence demonstrating their commitment to their children's well-being. This can include records of regular visitation, documentation of involvement in educational activities, and testimonies from teachers or other professionals who can report on the father's positive parenting abilities.

Keep detailed records of all interactions and parenting responsibilities. Maintain a journal detailing visitation schedules, daily activities, milestones, and special moments shared with the child. Additionally, save all communication exchanges with the other parent to ensure a clear account of co-parenting efforts.

3. Demonstrate Stability and Financial Security

Courts often prioritize providing a stable environment for the child's upbringing. Fathers should take steps to demonstrate their ability to provide stability, both emotionally and financially. Maintaining a stable residence, ensuring financial security, and showcasing involvement in the child's education and extracurricular activities will enhance their credibility and increase the likelihood of obtaining full custody.

4. Get a Legal Advocate

Navigating the complexities of custody battles can be overwhelming. Engaging the services of an experienced New York family law attorney can provide fathers with invaluable legal advice and representation. Legal professionals specializing in custody cases can help fathers address any biases or stereotypes that may arise and advocate for their rights as a parent throughout the divorce proceedings.

While it may still be challenging for fathers to win full custody in New York divorce cases, the tide is shifting in their favor. Fathers in New York divorce cases have a better chance of winning full custody today than in years past. By challenging gender stereotypes and advocating for shared parenting, fathers can assert their rights and improve their chances of gaining custody of their children.


Karen Rosenthal

Karen B. Rosenthal is a partner and co-founder at matrimonial litigation firm Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield LLP, where she brings 35 years of matrimonial law experience to bear in matters involving high-net-worth equitable distribution, contentious custody battles, and other high-stakes disputes. Certified as an Attorney for the Child and a frequent speaker on topics related to children going through high-conflict divorce, she has been recognized as a leading New York lawyer by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Crain's New York Business magazine, and New York magazine.

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