Ron Phillips New York Attorney spoke with us about father’s rights in divorce cases. Ron Phillips is a matrimonial and family rights law specialist with over four decades of experience practicing in the state of New York.
Ron Phillips: Fathers definitely have rights under the family court system, but it depends on what type of case. If you are involved in an action for divorce or dissolution, where there are children involved, there is a perception that there is a preference as far as custody is concerned for the mother. However, under the law, this is not the case. The court is required to consider what they believe to be in the best interest of the child.
If there are substantial reasons for it, this could include giving one parent custody or joint custody of the child. If you go before a family court judge and ask them about the father’s rights in divorce cases, they will tell you their opinion is irrelevant. The bottom line is to decide what’s in the best interest of the child.
If you ask about your rights as far as paternity, this depends on whether you are married to the mother. If you are not married, then there will be no obligation to pay support for that child until a finding or judgment has been made finding you to be the father. If it is before that time, then you are under no obligation to support that child.
If you are found to be the biological father of a child born outside of marriage, then there will be an obligation for you to pay support for that child until they reach 18 years of age or graduate from high school. If you ask about your rights to see the child, this will depend on an order of visitation that was either ordered by a judge or agreed upon by both parties.
The bottom line is that fathers have rights under the family court system, especially if children are involved in the divorce action. However, it is essential to understand that the court’s primary consideration is what is in the best interest of the child. The father’s rights are secondary to this.
When asked about the perception that the courts tend to favor mothers in divorce cases, Ron stated, “There certainly is that perception, and in the past that may have been the case. However, the law now requires that other things be considered besides who has been caring for the child. So, for example, if the father has been taking care of the child and there is a question as to why he no longer wants joint custody, this could affect how favorably the court looks upon his petition.”
We asked what factors would go into deciding what is in the best interest of the child, to which Ron responded, “Well, age being one. Also, the relative strength of the ties between the child and both parents is important. The court will look at criminal backgrounds or problems with drugs or alcohol because these could affect how well a parent takes care of a child. Finally, other factors considered include the financial situation of each parent, where the other parent lives and other children, what other caregiving people are available to take care of the child. The court has a lot of discretion as to this.”