In this Article:
(click a link below to go right to that section):
- Divorce Basics for Dads
- Establishing Paternity
- Are Fathers Always Required to Pay Alimony and Spousal Support?
- Dividing Property Between Parents
- How Dads Can Fight for Custody and Visitation
- Do Fathers Have to Pay Child Support?
- Unmarried Men Have Rights Too
- Why Divorcing Dads Need the Help of a Qualified Long Island, NY Family Lawyer
Fathers’ Rights on Long Island, NY
Becoming a father is one of the most rewarding, fulfilling adventures for many men. Building a family can transform a man’s life in ways they never knew possible and shape them into an entirely new person. But what happens when the fairytale dissolves and you find yourself splitting ways with the mother of your children?
How can you protect yourself — and your kids — during such a difficult time? Here’s what fathers need to know about divorcing on Long Island, NY and how to protect their father’s rights and get help advocating for you and your family.
When you’re a parent, divorce becomes exponentially more complex. New issues arise like child support and visitation, and issues like property division get a new twist with questions about the children’s primary residence. Men involved in a divorce face many of the same issues that women do, however, family law on Long Island, NY sometimes views men and women — and mothers and fathers — differently when dissolving a marriage.
In the past, fathers had few rights when it came to the custody of their children. Primary custody was usually given to the mother by default, without considering if such an arrangement was in the best interests of the child.
The roles of fathers have changed dramatically on Long Island, NY and in other areas across the nation, and fathers are exercising their right to be a part of their child’s life more than ever before. However, not all divorce lawyers understand father’s rights or aggressively fight for father’s rights, so it’s important to work with an attorney who has a strong history of working with dads going through the divorce process.
In some cases, fathers may have to establish biological paternity to secure legal rights to their child. For example, New York courts will rarely award custody to fathers without a legal paternity test, unless the divorcing couple was clearly married at the time the child was conceived.
Even then, the importance of a paternity test cannot be stressed enough; it provides you with the documentation needed to maintain your rights to your child.
Not all paternity tests are admissible in court though — for example, a judge generally won’t accept a home paternity test as legal proof of parentage. Your lawyer can arrange for you and your alleged child to undergo a safe and legally accepted paternity test, usually at a hospital or lab.
Alimony, also called spousal maintenance or spousal support, is a payment made from the higher-earning spouse to the lesser-earning spouse for a short time during and after the divorce. Maintenance is designed to provide the lesser earning spouse with an income while they look for gainful employment or obtain an education.
In the past, men were often ordered to pay alimony, and if they had children, child support as well. Now, in today’s two-income households, women are increasingly likely to be paying spousal support to men after a Long Island, NY divorce.
Many men have questions about paying alimony, including what variations of spousal maintenance exist, how it’s taxed, and if you’re still responsible for making payments if you lose your job.
On the other side of the spectrum, men who may be likely to receive support should be aware of what they’re entitled to receive if their wife was the higher-earning spouse. It’s important to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer about spousal support whether you anticipate being on the paying or receiving end of the proposition.
If you and your ex-wife share property, you will need to divide that property at the time of your divorce. New York is an equitable distribution state, which, to be clear, is different from equal distribution.
Equal distribution splits assets down the middle between spouses, without regard to each partner’s current assets or who has custody of the children. Equitable distribution, however, distributes assets between spouses fairly, accounting for the income and debts of each spouse, their premarital assets, and their child custody and support obligations.
Contrary to popular belief, debts are distributed the same as property unless they were acquired by one spouse or the other before the marriage.
Common questions dads have about property division in a Long Island, NY divorce include which spouse gets the marital residence, how retirement accounts are handled in a divorce, and if marital gifts are still subject to equitable distribution laws.
An experienced divorce attorney should be able to guide you through the process of dividing your assets with your ex-wife, especially if you have children and will have custody some or all of the time.
Most often, paternity and father’s rights come into play with child custody cases. There are many types of child custody arrangements on Long Island, NY, and as long as you and your ex-wife are in agreement about your arrangement and a judge concurs that it’s in the best interest of your child, you can get fairly creative.
The most important thing to understand about child custody is the criteria that courts use to determine what living arrangements would be the most beneficial for the child. Knowing this, you can work with a child custody lawyer to negotiate a custody and visitation agreement with your ex-wife that gives you the time you want with your child.
In many cases, child custody is contested. You and your ex-wife may be in complete disagreement about what truly is best for your child. Your ex may be adamant that the children should stay with her because she’s been a stay-at-home mother, but perhaps you have evidence that she’s struggling with substance abuse or some other reason she should not be the primary care-giver.
Or, say you and your ex-wife have a special needs child, and you’re a pediatrician. You may argue that while your child isn’t in any danger with your ex, you’re able to better provide for your child’s unique needs.
Once your custody agreement is finalized, it can be enforced with the help of your lawyer. One of the biggest child custody mistakes that dads can make after the fact is to fail to report when their ex-wife doesn’t meet her court-ordered obligations.
For example, she may travel with the child out of the country without notifying you, or she may make decisions about their education without discussing the matter with you. In these cases, it’s important to ensure that your custody agreement addresses these issues and that they are enforced and both parties abide by them.
Child support is another critical issue for dads going through a divorce. Along with child custody often being awarded to mothers, they also frequently received child support. Even in shared custody, dads were often made to pay child support. They only time there did not have to pay child support was if they had full custody.
Since this was so rare, it became a stigma that child support was always paid by “deadbeat dads.” This is, of course, a misnomer and now, child support can be paid by either mothers or fathers to whichever parent keeps the children the most.
Fathers often ask questions about how much child support they’ll need to pay and if their child custody payment can be reduced or modified in cases of need, such as if a job loss were to occur. If you do not meet your child support obligations as ordered by the court, you could face severe consequences, including wage garnishment and jail time.
It’s critical that you make sure your child support is paid on time, every time. If your child support order needs to be modified, work with your lawyer to amend the formal agreement and ensure that you’re never at risk for being non-compliant.
Many people believe that unmarried fathers have no rights to their children. However, this is far from the truth. Unmarried fathers have many of the same rights as married fathers, including the right to:
- Be involved in their children’s lives
- Have a say in important decisions about their children’s upbringing
- Receive child support from their ex-partner
- Visit their children
If you are an unmarried father who is not involved in your child’s life and want to be, you should speak to an experienced divorce lawyer and family law attorney to learn more about your rights.
If you’re a Long Island, NY father faced with divorce, moving forward can be extremely difficult. Strong emotions like anger, guilt and sadness complicate already challenging matters like alimony and child custody, and it can be hard to know how to navigate various aspects of the divorce.
An experienced divorce lawyer can be a divorcing dad’s greatest ally. Although New York has come a long way in protecting the rights of fathers dissolving their marriages, the law still tends to favor mothers. Your attorney can help you fight for your best interests and the interests of your children. Contact us today for more information or to schedule your free divorce consultation at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.
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