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Fathers' rights historically have been an afterthought when it comes to children and custody decisions. How refreshing is it, then, that New Jersey's child custody statute is entitled "Custody of Child: Rights of Both Parents Considered." What that means is that fathers' rights no longer take a backseat, but instead are on equal footing with mothers' rights. We've come a long way.

The law in New Jersey favors shared parental responsibility between the mother and the father. The policy behind the law is that children benefit when both parents are actively involved in their lives. Under the law, mothers and fathers are on equal footing before the court in matters of custody.

Courts can divide the physical and legal custody of a child between the parents in any way that best serves the interests of the child. Some of the factors courts look at are the age of the child, how many children there are, the home environment, the ability of each parent to provide for the children, parents' work schedules, and the wishes of the child if the child is old enough.

The courts try to ensure that both parents have frequent and continuing contact with their children. While mothers are still designated as the parent of primary residence the majority of the time, nevertheless many fathers also receive that designation. Regardless of which parent receives the primary residence designation, fathers have the right to spend as much time with their child as circumstances permit. They also have the right to make educational and medical decisions for their children.

It's important to remember that fathers have a right to be an active parent in their children's lives and they do not have to accept less. If presented with a custody challenge, a father should secure the services of a child custody lawyer who will fight for his rights to be present in his child's life.

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Smith & Gaynor, LLC
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Morristown, NJ 07960

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