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Child custody basics for New York parents

Parents in New York often struggle with the thought of getting divorced. One of the biggest fears many parents have about divorce is how it will impact their children. Child custody decisions can be very complex and difficult for some parents to accept. 

Parents going through divorce or those thinking about divorce should become familiar with child custody and visitation guidelines in New York. Understanding the different types of child custody and guidelines on how custody arrangements are made can help parents know what may happen during a child custody hearing as well as them prepare for child custody cases.

Parents should be aware that there are two types of child custody: legal and physical custody. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make decisions for the child while physical custody is who the child will live with. 

Parents can be awarded joint or sole custody. What is the difference between the two? Joint custody means that both parents will make decisions about the child's health, education and religion. The parent who is taking care of the child at the time is allowed to make day-to-day decisions. Sole custody means that the parent who has custody makes all the major decisions. 

It is helpful for parents to understand what factors are considered when child custody decisions are made. Some of the factors the court looks during child custody cases include the parenting skills of each parent, each parent's work schedules, if either parent has been the primary caregiver, what the child wants depending on his or her age and the health of each parent.

Not all child custody cases end up being heard by a judge. Parents are able to choose between having their case before a judge or use meditation to come to an agreement on their own. 

Child custody cases can be difficult for many parents but understanding how child custody decisions are made can reduce the confusion and challenges during the divorce process. 

Source: New York Court Help, "Frequently Asked Questions Child Custody/Visitation," Dec. 11, 2013

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