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Resolving disputes creatively

How is child custody determined in New York?

Many White Plains, New York, residents know that the issues surrounding child custody are complicated and plentiful. As a result, when finalizing child custody and visitation arrangements, the custody agreement must be approved by the court. The state of New York further categorizes child custody as legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody gives the parent the right to make important decisions pertaining to a child's upbringing; physical custody refers to the parent who provides the child with permanent residence.

Legal custody also gives a parent the right to decide important matters, such as school choice, religious practice and medical care and treatment. If the parents share joint custody of the child, then the parents will make all major decisions together. A parent granted sole custody has the right to make all the aforementioned decisions and the child resides with them most of the time.

Like other states, a judge considers the best interests of a child when determining a child custody or visitation order. Some major factors considered are:

  • Identifying the primary caregiver,
  • Assessing the quality of life in both parents' homes,
  • Assessing the fitness of both parents based on economic, physical and mental conditions,
  • Identifying the current residence of the child and which parent the child has lived with more,
  • Assessing the ability of each parent to provide intellectual and emotional support,
  • Determining whether one parent wants to harm a child's relationship with the other parent,
  • Identifying a child's preference, where applicable,

  • Assessing whether the child custody arrangement would separate siblings, and
  • Assessing a history of child abuse or other forms of domestic violence of one parent.

Once the judge has examined these factors, an order is issued, which provides the details of the arrangement in terms of physical and legal custody, visitation schedules and child support payments.

Although these factors may seem straightforward, determining and ascertaining a child's best interests is often a long and cumbersome process. In such situations, advice from professionals experienced in New York family law may prove beneficial. Parents in the midst of a child custody dispute or those anticipating one may consider visiting a lawyer for representation in court.

Source: nycourts.gov, "Frequently Asked Questions Child Custody/Visitation," Accessed on Sept. 19, 2014

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