Child Custody Lawyers in New York City
Few family law disputes are more contentious than child custody. Happily, sometimes parents can agree to a custody arrangement that works for both of them and their children. Unfortunately, many parents cannot come to a consensus and therefore need to have the judge decide the dispute for them.
There are many misconceptions about child custody floating around the Internet. our clients are confused about what custody is and just how a judge will decide it. This page should better acquaint you with New York’s child custody laws. If you have questions, please reach out to a New York City child custody attorney for help.
Types of Child Custody
Child custody is not a “one size fits all” arrangement. New York recognizes the following types of child custody:
The parent with physical custody has the responsibility for the control and maintenance of the child. Often, this means the child lives with this parent most of the time, such as during the school year. The parent who has physical custody is usually called the “custodial parent” or “primary custodian.”
Legal custody refers to the parent’s right to make important legal decisions for the child. Examples include approving medical care, choosing a school, signing off on after-school activities, and choosing a religious upbringing.
Joint custody occurs when both parents are granted custody of a child. This means that they will need to reach an agreement on the legal matters discussed above. If parents are granted joint physical custody, the child will split their time 50/50 with each parent. Otherwise, one parent will be the custodial parent and the other will have visitation.
A custody arrangement needs to be put in place during the duration of the divorce. Once the divorce is granted, the judge will sign off on permanent custody orders. Temporary custody will be one of the first things a judge decides.
Temporary custody should not be overlooked. New York judges exhibit a preference for maintaining the status quo, so long as it appears to be working for the children. It is very easy for a temporary child custody order to ripen into a permanent one, so our clients should stay intimately involved with their children during the duration of the divorce.
Factors Determining Child Custody
When parents cannot agree on child custody, a judge will need to decide the issue. Judges do not award child custody based on what is an ideal arrangement for the parents. Instead, custody is decided by determining the best interests of the child.
This best interest analysis has developed over the decades. Courts have identified many factors that they consider, including:
- Each parent’s skills as parent, including their strengths and weaknesses. This is subjective, but people can testify about how good you are as a parent. If you struggle to keep an adolescent under control, for example, this factor could work against you.
- Each parent’s ability to provide for their children. Ability includes financial resources, the stability of the home, and other factors.
- Which parent has provided most the care for the child. This factor would favor a stay-at-home parent over one who works. If both parents work, then one might have provided more care than the other.
- Each parent’s physical and mental health. Parents who are sick or suffering from mental illness will be looked at less favorably than parents who are healthy. If you have a drug addiction, you should be working on addressing it.
- Each parent’s work schedule. If you are always on the road for work, then it will be hard to obtain physical custody.
- The child’s relationship with siblings and other family members. For example, your child might be very close to half-siblings who live with you. If so, this factor could weigh in your favor.
- Any history of domestic violence. Domestic violence includes physical, emotional, mental, sexual, and economic abuse. Domestic abuse would not automatically disqualify a parent, but a judge will view it very negatively.
- Each parent’s willingness to cooperate with the other parent and encourage a relationship.
- The child’s preference (depending in their age). The preference of a very young child might not weigh heavily. But an intelligent adolescent’s opinion could carry great weight with the judge.
Contrary to popular opinion, New York courts do not assume that mothers are the preferred parent. Instead, New York puts mothers and fathers on equal footing. However, in practice, judges often find that mothers have provided more care for young children.
The court will also pay close attention to how much you nurture your children to maintain a positive relationship with the other parent. You don’t gain any advantage of trying to alienate your child from your ex, so you should avoid badmouthing the other parent in front of your children. If you know that the other parent is badmouthing you, then you should raise this issue with your attorney.
A judge must decide that visitation is in the child’s best interests. If a parent is not given joint physical custody, then he or she typically gets visitation with the child unless the judge finds that they are a danger to the child. Visitation can be supervised or unsupervised.
Parents are entitled to visitation that is meaningful and frequent. Others might also request visitation, such as siblings and half-siblings. Grandparents can also request visitation in some situations.
If parents can agree to a visitation schedule, they should submit it to the judge. The more detailed the schedule, the better, since a detailed schedule will prevent future disputes from arising. If the parents cannot agree to a visitation schedule, then the judge will set one after checking the parents’ work schedules and other commitments.
Contact our Experienced Child Custody Lawyers
If divorce is on the horizon and you are worried about child custody, reach out to us today. The sooner you plan for a child custody dispute, the better positioned you will be to make a compelling argument to the court. If you need to establish paternity, then more time is helpful as well.
At the Levoritz Law Firm, we have represented men and women in custody disputes for over a decade. To speak to us, please schedule a confidential consultation by calling 718-942-4004 or filling out our contact form.