There was a time when mothers were awarded child custody in divorce cases, but family law judges in New York and around the country are now leaning more toward joint custody arrangements. This is because a growing body of research suggests that children fare better when they spend time with both of their parents, but that does not mean gender bias in child custody disputes is a thing of the past.
Judges make these decisions based on what they believe to be in the best interests of the child, but their thinking may be influenced by the roles divorcing spouses had when they were married. If one parent remained at home to raise children while the other parent worked to support the family, judges could believe that the children involved would be best served by allowing this state of affairs to continue. However, there are steps that working fathers or mothers can take that could persuade judges to look on a joint custody arrangement more favorably.
Judges are more likely to take the arguments made by working parents more seriously when they are prepared. This is why it is a good idea for them to arrive at court with a detailed parenting plan and evidence of an established relationship with the child or children in question. They should also attempt to maintain a cordial relationship with their former husbands or wives as judges may be reluctant to order joint custody when doing so may expose children to conflict and hostility.
Experienced family law attorneys may urge divorcing parents to do everything they can to avoid bitter child custody disputes that could leave children emotionally traumatized. When traditional negotiations are unproductive and a court battle seems inevitable, attorneys may recommend exploring alternative approaches like mediation. Attorneys could also suggest joint legal custody instead of joint physical custody when working parents with grueling schedules would like to remain involved in their child’s life.