Excellent, if you plan accordingly. Our system of justice is required to be gender neutral and the fact that your wife was a stay at home mother is not dispositive of whether a father can have a shared custodial arrangement. Your chances of obtaining shared custody are greatly enhanced if you follow the advice of an experienced attorney skilled at navigating this area of the law. It is critically important that you acquire the skills and mindset of striving to be able to agree, communicate and cooperate with your spouse in matters relating to your children however unreasonable she or he may be.
The extent and quality of the time you spend with your children is important to the court’s analysis. In general it is helpful to become more active in your children’s lives. I specifically counsel client’s to assume those many mundane tasks that are typically undertaken by the primary caretaker. This can and will have a significant bearing on whether or not a court will consider and ultimately grant shared physical custody. Among those tasks are preparing meals, bathing the children, laundering their clothing, purchasing clothes, food shopping, attending to the children’s medical and dental needs including but not limited to scheduling appointments and attending those appointments if possible.
I counsel my client’s to be proactive in addressing their children’s social, educational and extracurricular needs. Discussing with your spouse and arranging for involvement in recreational and/or travel sports is one of those areas. Attending parent/teacher conferences and being proactive with teachers and school personnel establishes you as an active and interested parent.
In the end analysis a shared arrangement is really only possible if the parents live in close geographic proximity to each other. If at all possible you want to plan your next home so that you are within a short driving distance of their mother’s home and most importantly their school. Directly related to this issue is the stability of your home environment home. As an example if you are living with your girlfriend in her home there is an arguable corresponding lack of stability in that arrangement. Where you live should also address the quality and continuity of the children’s education.
Paris P. Eliades, is the head of Family Law at the law firm of Courter, Kobert & Cohen P.C. in New Jersey.