With an increase in the number of working moms, stay-at-home dads, and more parents seeking a greater “work/life” balance, it is no surprise that the traditional parenting roles to which we have become accustomed continue to evolve. This sentiment was echoed in a cover story featured in yesterday’s Father’s Day edition of the New Jersey Star Ledger, which focused on dads taking on a greater role in child rearing.
The story notes how, for many fathers in their 20s and 30s, being an involved parent is a part of their identity. Certainly this contrasts with past norms, where a father’s identity centered largely, if not entirely, on his ability to financially support the family. Now, as the article conveys, much of what dads do around the house is based, in large part, to how much mom is working and earning – i.e., the more moms work and earn, the more dads do at home. I could not help but agree with the story’s conclusion that everyone is exhausted at day’s end, as each parent’s attention is just spread out differently between different tasks, whether it be more work at the office or more work at home.
From a family law perspective, the article had me thinking about how traditional custody arrangements and parenting time plans are also evolving with the changing parenting roles. The New Jersey legislature generally favors a greater role in the child’s life by both parents, and some experts talk about how a more shared parenting arrangement may be in a child’s best interests as the child gets older. This is, however, always dependent on a given set of circumstances, as every custody and parenting situation comes with its own unique set of facts upon which such decisions are made.
Seemingly less common now is the mom as primary custodian, or at least dad seeks to have more parenting time than just the traditional “every other weekend and mid-week dinner” set-up, commensurate with his increased parenting role in the home. A court or custody expert will consider many factors in making decisions or recommendations with respect to custody and parenting time, perhaps the most important of which addresses how the parents divide the primary caretaking roles including, but not limited to, feeding, bathing and grooming the child, taking care of the child when she is sick, bathing the child and putting her to bed, doing homework with her, buying and cleaning the child’s clothing, attending school conferences, and fostering the child’s participation in enrichment and extracurricular activities.
As the article provides, more dads are taking on a greater amount of such caretaking responsibilities. Depending on a given set of facts, it may make sense, by correlation, that the custody and parenting time arrangements also evolve. Ultimately, a court is going to review and analyze the complete set of facts and circumstances at issue before determining what is in the child’s best interests as to custody and parenting time.
Robert Epstein is an associate in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Robert practices in the firm’s Roseland, New Jersey office and can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or firstname.lastname@example.org.