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Resolving disputes creatively

Determining child custody in a New York divorce

One of the most daunting questions facing a person contemplating a divorce is child custody. Fortunately, state law provides guidelines to resolve child custody disputes, if the divorcing parents cannot agree. This post will describe the different types of custody and summarize the legal criteria for deciding custody disputes.

Child custody in New York comes in two varieties: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is the term used to describe where the child is expected to live. Legal custody means the right of the parent to make decisions concerning the child's education, medical care and overall welfare.

Custody can also be sole or joint. Sole physical custody means that the child will reside exclusively with one parent. Joint physical custody means that the parents will share custody on a mutually agreeable basis. Similarly, sole legal custody means that only one parent is authorized to make decisions concerning the child's welfare, and joint legal custody means that the parents share this right.

All conflicts between the parents concerning custody issues are resolved based upon the court's determination of the solution that will serve the "best interest of the child." While this term can seem vague and ill defined, the courts have worked out the factors that affect this determination.

These factors include the ability of each parent to care for the child, each parent's mental and physical health, the parents' work schedules, the child's preferences, if the child is old enough to make a responsible choice, and the parents' ability to cooperate with one another. The court also looks at whether the family has experienced domestic violence.

Anyone contemplating a divorce and wondering about custody issues may wish to consult an experienced family lawyer. A consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer can provide helpful advice on various solutions for custody disputes.

Source:, "New York Child Custody Laws," accessed on June 4, 2017

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