To a great and gratifying extent, Father’s Rights have been embraced in New York City divorce. Officially, there has never been any preferential right to custody in either parent. Nowadays, when properly represented by competent New York child custody counsel, the father who has been the breadwinner does not have to be relegated to become “Uncle Daddy”. For New York City divorce, there are specialized matrimonial parts at the courthouse, staffed with well trained Justices who well understand New York divorce.
The allegation of domestic violence, which can become the weapon of choice to advance the agenda of the angry spouse or unscrupulous adversary, of course remains an ominous peril in New York City child custody cases. One of the very first lectures I have with every child custody client of either gender is to inculcate the importance of perspective: the judge, the police department, each parent’s family of origin, indeed everyone not involved in the New York child custody case, does not have the divorcing parent’s intense perspective or interest in the child custody case. No judge wants to see her or his picture plastered on the front page of a tabloid in the unfortunate event, as happened recently, of a profoundly disturbed parent who jumps of a roof top with a child, or, as happened back in the 80s, of an angry lover who makes bail, gets out of jail and murders a paramour.
Of course there is a stereotype that one of the parents in the New York City child custody might be driven by anger or sloth. But nowadays the convention is for joint legal custody and at least one weekday sleep over, while splitting summers and other vacations.
Nowadays, the prevailing sentiment among the New York divorce courts and mental health professionals is to limit and isolate against the parent who denigrates the other parent. It is also necessary to face facts in New York child custody cases: Of course the parental access schedule should not give one parent all of the homework time and the other parent all of the weekends. So a parental access schedule that affords each parent alternating weekends makes eminent good sense, and is virtually required.
The New York divorce courts also understand that neither parent gets to control the information. In the internet age school communication and even homework schedules are available online with a password. So I remind all of my clients that they have to be proactive. Many of the so called “information problems” that crop up during the New York divorce case have benign origins in the at-the-time sensible division of authority that prevailed in the pre-divorce, intact household. In all likelihood one of the parents made the doctor’s appointment and/or took the kids to the dentist. But you are getting a divorce now. Don’t embarrass your child or humiliate the other parent with officious intrusions with third parties.
It is of course also sad and still true that you know in your heart that the other parent may well drag her feet or be less than responsible in the area of cooperation. But as Justice Antonin Scalia admonished liberals who complained about Bush v. Gore: get over it. Get over it because you have to. Not because it is right. The policy is best-interests-of-the-children, not best-interests-of-the parents. That means that for the benefit of your child you are well advised to resist the temptation to curse the darkness and instead to always be ready to light a candle. Your child requires and deserves that you turn the other cheek. Who knows, you may feel differently about the situation later, especially when you get to pat yourself on the back for enabling your child’s great success.