As is the case in other states, New York’s child custody laws are designed to protect the “best interests of the child.” In other places, “best interests of the child” is a broadly defined idea that is sometimes left up to a judge’s discretion. But the state of New York actually provides a vast and comprehensive set of guidelines to help define this concept in specific terms. The child’s best interest is the number one factor in determining who gets custody.
Keep reading to learn about the guidelines and the types of custody the court will consider in a child custody case in New York.
Guidelines for Determining the Child’s Best Interests
There are a number of factors that the court will take into account when considering a child’s best interests in a custody case. These factors include:
- Whether there are siblings (the court likes to keep siblings together)
- The child’s preference, especially if the child is older
- How cooperative the two parents are
- The parents’ work schedules
- The stability of each parent, including which parent will best be able to provide food, shelter, education, and medical attention for the child
- Whether domestic abuse has ever been a factor
- Whether either parent struggles with alcohol or drug addiction
- The home environment of each parent
- Whether one parent is better equipped to handle the upbringing of a child
- Whether there is a pre-existing custody agreement
The Four Types of Custody in New York
There are generally four different types of child custody in the state of New York. They are:
- Legal custody
- Physical custody
- Joint custody
- Sole custody
Although child custody laws in New York and elsewhere used to presume that a child’s mother was generally the more appropriate person to have custody, that is no longer the case. The courts no longer assume that the mother is usually a better option for custody solely on the basis of being the child’s mother, which gives both mothers and fathers an equal chance at getting child custody. Judges determine who will get custody on a case-by-case basis based on the qualifications of each parent.
Legal custody gives one or both parents final authority over major decisions regarding their child, including decisions about the child’s education, medical decisions, and decisions about religious practices. In most cases, it is one parent who has the final say about these types of decisions. Sometimes, final authority is decided between the two parents, and in some cases it is decided by the court.
When a parent has physical custody of a child, this is the parent with whom the child primarily lives. Even though they may not live with their other parent, the non-custodial parent often adheres to a visitation schedule so that both parents get to spend time with their child.
Joint custody is a very common type of custody in New York. When parents have joint custody of a child, they share parenting responsibilities based on a schedule that is either decided by them or by a judge. This type of custody requires complete cooperation from both parents if it is to be successful, and the two parents must keep each other informed about important decisions they make regarding their child.
In a sole custody arrangement, only one parent has custody of the child. That parent has sole authority over major decisions about the child, although they can keep the other parent informed of these decisions. While sole custody gives the parents with custody final authority and is usually the parent the child resides with, that doesn’t mean the other parent doesn’t have visitation rights or isn’t involved with the child.
How a New York Family Lawyer Can Help
If you are a parent involved in a custody dispute, working with an attorney can be extremely beneficial. The New York child custody and visitation attorneys at The Mandel Law Firm, who are all parents themselves, understand that the most important thing is the best interests of your child.
Our experienced and compassionate attorneys can help you navigate the complex process of seeking child custody. We are highly skilled at negotiating amicable resolutions that meet your family’s needs, but we are also experienced litigators who are prepared to go to court when needed.