As a divorce lawyer in New Jersey focusing on helping fathers gain custody of their children, I’m often asked by a client, “How can I help my case to gain sole or shared custody of my kids?”
While family court judges in New Jersey are becoming more willing to consider the desires of a father when it comes to custody, I tell men there are at least four things that they can do now to boost the argument we make on their behalf, whether you want joint or sole custody.
While it may not be possible for a dad to do all of these, by following as many of these tactics as possible you will make our job easier when we’re in a settlement conference or before a judge.
- Be Active in Your Children’s Life – This is the most important. Always be there for your children, no matter what. It’s good for the kids and for you, and it is very good for your case. Attend every school meeting and get to know the children’s teachers, show up for every recital, game, special event or activity. Carve out time to help them with big projects or assignments. If your family is religious, take them with you to where you worship. Build a demonstrable track record of being actively involved in their lives. This will score major points for you when a judge is considering – as they must under New Jersey law – what is in the best interests of the children.
- Ask People Who Know You for “Testimonials” – We can prepare an affidavit for people who know you to sign that attest to what a great father you are. If your case isn’t settled and goes to trial, having them testify on your behalf adds weight to the arguments we make for you. Teachers and other school personnel, an employer or supervisor, members of volunteer groups you belong to, and your Pastor, Priest, Rabbi or Iman, can all be highly credible witnesses on your behalf.
- Leverage Your Earning Power – Despite the many advances women have made in business, typically fathers we represent in New Jersey custody cases still earn more than the mother does. Even with child support payments, it takes money to provide all of the resources that children need to thrive and grow. We can make a point of demonstrating to the court that you have the financial resources to offer a better life for the kids. And if there is a likelihood that your child support payments may not go entirely to helping the children, we will show the court that you will make a better custodial parent.
- If True, Show That Mom Is Bad News – Family court judges have little patience for a custody argument raised by a mother who suffers from alcohol or substance abuse issues – even if she is a “binge drinker” who gets drunk only ever few months or uses drugs occasionally. They have even less time for a mother who is emotionally or physically abusive. Keep track of whether she has had a rotating series of boyfriends in the house since you separated. Is she a workaholic who leaves early and comes home late? If there are friends or other family members who can explain truthfully that your ex is bad news, we can call on for support. Any of these arguments can bolster your case for sole or joint custody
Despite a clear statement of the goal of shared custody and plentiful parenting time with both you and the children’s mother, many child custody disputes result in one parent being awarded as the primary caregiver with the other being given visitation rights. A New Jersey family court judge must consider a wide range of factors when considering what is in the best interests of your children.
One thing a judge will consider is whether fitness issues have arisen recently. So, for example, while it bolsters your case if you are actively involved in the life of your children now, a judge might ask how involved you were prior to the separation. Or did the split with the wife trigger an alcohol problem.
If you or a man you know is considering a divorce, we can help you gain sole of shared custody of your children. Please call me or any of our family and divorce lawyers at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or in Montclair at 862.245.4620. I know what you’re going through and can help you achieve your goals in the divorce.