Going through a divorce can be emotionally draining on both parents involved, but divorce can be even more traumatic on children.  Because children are vulnerable, especially at such a young age, it is important to remember that the best interests of the child are the most important factors when determining what parent gets custody of the children.

Often times, both the mother and father will have joint custody of their children.  This is a typical custody arrangement for divorcing parents.  However, there are situations where joint custody is not the answer.  Perhaps one parent is not capable of caring for the children the way the other parent can.  Fathers typically have a harder time convincing a court that they deserve sole custody of their children.  Fathers have an upward battle and will need legal guidance in proving that the mother of the children is simply unfit to have sole custody.

In New Jersey, as in most states, courts will look to ensure that a child’s best interests are considered.  There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.  Legal custody allows a parent to make the important decisions in a child’s life such as where the child goes to school, what medical treatment the child receives and all other major life decisions that parents face for their children.  Physical custody allows the child to live with one parent and the other parent often has visitation rights.

New Jersey law treats mothers and fathers equally when determining custody arrangements.  To obtain sole custody, a father must prove that the mother is unfit in some way.  Perhaps the mother is abusing drugs, alcohol, is physically abusive, mentally incompetent or financially incapable of caring for the children.  If you are a father who feels you are the best parent to have sole custody of your child(ren), you are not alone.  While courts must remain impartial, mothers tend to get sole custody when there is a custody dispute because mothers have an easier time proving that it is in the best interest of the child for the mother to have sole custody.

If you are a father and you have a child that is a teenager, your child may be able to speak on his or her own behalf and make the decision of where and who to live with – the mother or the father.  If your child is relatively young, a court will likely make the decision regarding custody after looking at all factors.  Regardless of the age of the child(ren), you should consult with an experienced family law attorney so that all factors can be considered.  The stakes are too high to go through a divorce and custody proceedings without help.  Fathers have a tough enough time as it is, so the chances of obtaining sole custody without the help of an attorney are lower.

Post originally appeared on Brad Micklin’s Blog