Heading to family court in New York? Be sure to arm yourself with a solid understanding of New York child custody laws in advance. Even if you're already working with a lawyer, becoming familiar with your local statutes will help you know what to expect in court and how to best present your case. Before you head in to court, here's what you need to know about child custody laws in New York:
Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody in New York
In the state of New York, the courts generally favor a joint custody arrangement between both parents.
This type of child custody involves sharing both physical and legal custody. While this is certainly not the case for every family, past rulings suggest that many New York courts view joint custody as being in the best interest of the child. However, there are times when New York courts will rule in favor of one parent getting sole custody. Even when this happens, the courts generally try to ensure that the non-custodial parent has the right to frequent visitation unless the court has reason to suspect the child could be in danger.
Factors Used to Determine Child Custody in New York
In New York, the courts weigh the following factors before making a child custody determination:
- The best interests of the child
- The child's wishes, if the child is of an age where he/she can express his/her desire (generally 12 years of age or older)
- Whether either parent has been the primary caretaker of the child up to this point
- Any history of domestic violence
- Each parent's work schedule
- The child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and extended family
- The mental and physical health of both parents
- Each parent's ability to foster and encourage a relationship with the other parent
- The parenting skills of both parents and their ability to provide for a child with special needs, if applicable
Visitation and Child Custody in New York
When the courts determine that it would be in the child's best interests to live primarily with one parent, attempts are generally made to allow the non-custodial parent access to visitation. Sometimes, though, the court will determine that certain limits need to be put in place around when and where those visits can happen. Examples of such limitations include:
- Supervised Visitation - If the court determines that the child might be in danger if he or she is left alone with the parent, then the court will choose someone to supervise visits. This may be a family member or a court-appointed supervisor.
- Therapeutic Supervised Visitation - This options allows a mental health professional to supervise the visits between the parent and child with the goal of improving parent-child communication and bonding during the visits.
- Neutral Place of Exchange - Courts often allow unsupervised visits but require parents to use a neutral drop-off location in order to minimize conflict between the parents.
- Monitored Transition - Occasionally, the courts will require that a third-party be present during visitation drop-offs in order to ensure everyone's safety and maintain a calm environment for the child.
Third Party Custody in New York
There are times when the courts will determine that living with someone other than the parents would be the best child custody arrangement for the child. This is known as third party custody. Examples include living with a grandparent, aunt, or sibling. In such cases, the courts may require the parent to participate in parenting classes, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, or an anger management program before formally re-evaluating the child custody arrangement.
For more information about child custody laws in New York, speak with a qualified attorney practicing family law in the state of New York.