Child Custody

Disuptes surrounding child custody are usually the most stressful and contentious in family law. Divorce is already difficult enough, but determining custody can make the entire process far more stressful. However, our New York child custody lawyers at Douglas Family Law Group are passionate about helping you achieve your goals and ensuring that your children get what’s best for them.


We understand what matters most when issues of child custody are before the court. We will listen to your goals and present you to the court in the best light possible. We can ensure you that you will sign your child custody agreement knowing your interests and priorities have been heard and represented throughout the negotiations.


Call our White Plains family law attorneys today at 914.615.9058 to schedule an initial consultation with one of our child custody lawyers to learn more about how we can help you.



The Different Types of Child Custody in
New York



Under New York child custody laws, the key determinant in child custody and visitation decisions is the best interest of the child, as defined by law. There are two basic types of child custody arrangements: physical custody and legal custody.




Legal Custody


A parent with legal custody is the one with the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s education, health and medical treatment, and religious practice. The parent with legal custody also has the authority to make decisions regarding a child’s extracurricular activities.


If the parents agree to have joint legal custody, it means that both of them will have the authority to make the aforementioned decisions. With joint custody, the parents agree to cooperate post-divorce and make these important life decisions together.



Physical Custody


Physical custody is related to the parenting schedule and time spent with the child. A parent with physical custody, also referred to as the primary caretaker, is the parent that the child resides with primarily. It is determined by counting the number of overnights spent with the child.


The overnight schedule is generally calculated by looking at the parenting time over a 2-week, or 14 overnight, period. As an example, if one parent has the child for 8 out of 14 overnights, then that parent has primary physical custody of the child. Vacations and holidays are determined separately from the parenting schedule.




How Does New York Family Court Determine Child Custody?


Judges in New York Family Courts try to make the best decisions possible when it comes to child custody matters. In divorce cases, child custody, visitation, and child support are usually the most critical and contested aspects of the case.


Judges use a variety of determining factors to determine which parent will be awarded custody. The overall goal is to make a decision that disrupts the child as little as possible. Here are some of the critical factors that get considered when determining child custody arrangements:


  • Status Quo: The courts usually prefer when there’s already an agreed-upon custody agreement that the parents have developed and are either using or plan to use.
  • Siblings: The courts generally prefer keeping siblings together, but the needs of siblings will differ at times and teh court may opt to split them between parents.
  • Stability of the Environment: The courts will usually prefer to keep the child in the same environment, such as their school, community, etc.
  • Parents’ Finances: The courts usually prefer awarding custody to the parent who can provide the child with adequate food, clothing, a safe neighborhood, a suitable space, etc.
  • Parental Fitness: If a parent suffers from a drug or alcohol problem, mental instability, or has a criminal record, the court may consider these factors when making its final decision.
  • Child’s Preferences: Underage children cannot legally speak for themselves, but the court usually takes their preferences into account. The in the end, however, the court decides based on what is believed to be in the best interest of the child.
  • Relationship with the Parent: The Court will also consider the existing dynamics between each parent and the child. If the child has barely spent any time with one of the parents, or has a damaged relationship with one of the parents, this will impact the final agreement.

To ensure you present your case to the Court in the best possible way, contact our office today at 914.615.9058 to get started on your client journey.




Modifying Child Custody in New York


To make changes to your current child custody arrangement, you will have to file a petition with the court that originally issued it. The modification can only be approved if you provide evidence that there has been a significant change in your circumstance since the original order was issued. You will also have to prove to the Court that the proposed modification will be in the best interest of your child.


Significant changes in circumstances can include, but are not limited to:


  • Remarriage
  • Financial hardship
  • Loss of employment
  • Abandonment
  • Health issues
  • Relocation of residence
  • Domestic abuse or neglect
  • The child has become older and is requesting a change

The New York law also allows for a modification in child custody orders if a parent was deployed by the military and they are requesting the modification upon their return.


Even if you meet any of the qualifying change in circumstances, the Court still has to determine what is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, it is not a guarantee that the proposed modification will be granted.




Relocating With an Existing Child Custody Agreement


One of the most challenging custody disputes that New York child custody lawyers have to deal with is relocation custody disputes. In some instances, the custodial parent may wish to move out of state, to another town, or a even a different country.


The non-custodial parent usually opposes the move since the visitation schedule will change, leaving them with less parenting time. If both parents agree with the relocation, they are required to sign a written agreement drafted by a child custody lawyer.

A custodial parent isn’t allowed to move to a different city, town, state, or country without the approval of the Court or other parent. If the custodial parent moves with the child without the necessary approval, the Court may sanction them with a contempt order.


If you’re in danger of being sanctioned by a New York Court for an unapproved relocation, contact our experienced child custody lawyers at Douglas Family Law Group. Call us at 914.615.9058 to schedule an appointment with one of our child custody lawyers.






To determine whether or not a relocation is in the child’s best interests, New York Family Court usually considers the totality of circumstances, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:


  • The impact the move is likely to have on the child’s quality of life emotionally, educationally, and financially
  • The quality of the relationship between the child and each parent
  • Each parent’s reasons for either wanting to relocate or objecting to a relocation
  • If it is feasible for the non-custodial parent to maintain some relationship with the relocated child.


If you are seeking to relocate, you are required to prove to the court that you are doing so for valid reasons. An example of a “valid reason” may be that you have received a better job opportunity, or are remarrying. If. you seek to object to a relocation, you are required to show that moving is unnecessary and/or is likely to negatively affect your child.




Creating a Child Custody Agreement Outside of the Court


Child custody plans do not need to be litigated in court. The parents and involved parties have a few options they can choose in place of getting the Court involved. This does require both parties to be prepared to make concessions and compromises. As a result, it is not always possible to reach an agreement without the Court’s involvement.




Informal Negotiations


Parents that get along amicably can agree on a written custody agreement by drafting the agreement themselves. If one parent is to have physical custody and the other partial custody, decisions must be made regarding where the child will spend birthdays, special holidays, and other various family occasions.




Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)


Parents can negotiate a parenting agreement, with or without the assistance of attorneys through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR is usually more casual and less adversarial than the traditional court setting. It can be particularly advantageous when you consider factors such as:


  • The degree of the parties’ willingness and ability to work together to resolve issues
  • The degree of conflict between the parties on the issues being disputed
  • The degree of the parties’ motivation to limit issues from being public record




Child Custody Mediation


The vast majority of child custody cases are usually resolved through mediation. It is a non-adversarial process where an independent mediator meets with the parents to help them settle their dispute.


Child custody mediation allows you and your spouse to avoide the stressful, hostile, and traumatic litigation of a custody dispute. It gives both of you the opportunity to reach the common goal of serving the best interests of your child in a civil manner.




Collaborative Family Law


Collaborative family law is used where the sole agenda and primary focus for all the parties is an absolute commitment to a settlement. Each side is entitled to legal advice from their lawyers and advocacy is built in all stages of the process.


The collaborative law process essentially puts two lawyers in the same room and guides them in the same direction to resolve the matters in dispute. The setting differs from mediation since there’s no neutral third party involved.


As negotiations progress in the collaborative law process, the lawyers can decide to hire experts or counselors to assist with asset valuation, accounting matters, or any other issues that may arise during discussion of child support obligations.




What happens when an agreement cannot be reached?


During divorce proceedings, agreements between co-parents are often hard to attain. With emotions running high and resentments from past arguments in the foreground, co-parents may find it hard to agree on all aspects of child custody.


Unfortunately conflict can become inevitable in some situations. Parents may be unwilling to compromise when it comes to shared parenting agreements, putting their wants and needs ahead of the child’s. 


If parents are unable to agree on aspects of child custody, the Court may have to take control of the creation of the parenting plan. Unfortunately, this is usually not ideal since courts are busy and to make a decision about a family within a relatively short period of time.


While court involvement may not be ideal for all situations, it still remains useful for determining the best child custody arrangement after divorce, particularly in high-conflict cases. However, unless circumstances prevent it, parents should exhaust all options to come to an agreement prior to involving the Court.




How an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer Can Help


Child custody decisions tend to be highly contentious matters in family law and are ideally handled with the help of a lawyer. The White Plains, NY child custody lawyers at Douglas Family Law Group will aggressively assert your custody position, no matter the setting.


Our lawyers are highly experienced in all areas of dispute resolution, including mediation, negotiation, and even trial litigation. You can rest assured that we will handle your child custody case efficiently and correctly if you decide to work with us.


At Douglas Family Law Group, we build trial-ready custody cases from the start. While we strive to avoid heading to trial, we are always prepared to be your courtroom advocate. We can guide you through the process of securing child custody, scheduling visitation, and obtaining or limiting child support. 


Contact our attorneys today at 914.615.9058 and schedule your initial consultation to take the first step at securing your children’s future.




50 Main Street Suite 935

White Plains, New York 10606

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