FAMILY LAW - CUSTODY

This is, of course, a heavily fraught area of the law. Back in the ‘70s when Ms. Feigen began her practice of family law, it was imperative, she felt, that fathers have equal rights to shared custody with mothers. She litigated a successful case in New York’s Supreme Court in which a father gained the right to share custody with his soon-to-be former wife. This case raised the ire of some other feminists who felt that such actions undermined mothers’ rights not only to custody but also child support. Ms. Feigen stood firm on the side of equity for fathers and mothers.

During the intervening years, however, some divorcing fathers have used this issue as a wedge, not really to obtain custody of their children as much as to use the request for it as a way to get their wives to lower the amount they were asking for alimony or child support. This is an abuse of something for which Ms. Feigen fought hard, especially because of the reaction of some feminists to her actions on behalf of fathers.

Today, she is vigilant even with clients about how genuine their request for custody is. Her goal is to ensure that she and her client agree about what is best for the children.

Recently, a new issue has arisen as same-sex couples have children. In some instances, both parents adopt a child; in many, one of the women bears the child and the other adopts; in same-sex male couples, one or both often inseminate a surrogate. However these children come into being, should the union dissolve, custody is often the primary battleground. Courts almost uniformly have decreed that adopted children must have the same benefits as biologically born children. Nonetheless, parents fight over this issue. Ms. Feigen tries to guide them to a fair resolution maintaining that the best interest of the child as the only important factor. Sometimes experts are brought in to determine the outcome of that inquiry.