How New York Courts Determine Child Custody

The primary focus of New York’s custody laws is safeguarding the welfare of children. New York case law features various guidelines for awarding child custody.

The hardship of going through a child custody battle is magnified by the fact that child custody is often one of the most emotionally charged and contested areas of family law. However, you can avoid anxiety and uncertainty if you fully grasp how it works.

Contact a New York child custody attorney for professional legal advice on child custody laws. This article explains New York’s child custody statutes and how the state’s courts make custody decisions.

Child Custody Laws in New York

New York child custody laws initially presumed that mothers are more suitable custodial parents than fathers. But these regulations have been updated.

In New York, there is no presumption in favor of either parent for determining custody so that a father can win the battle for primary residential care. The law recognizes that every situation involving the custody of a child is unique.

In case of a New York divorce or when unmarried parents have a child together, they may create a custody arrangement. Whether or not the parents were married is irrelevant when determining the child’s primary residence.

Types of Child Custody in New York

There are different types of child custody models in New York. These include:

Joint Custody

This custody arrangement is where both parents share custody depending on a pre-determined schedule. Such child custody arrangements involving both parents are common in New York.

Sole Custody

This refers to a situation when only one parent has custody of the child. However, the other parent may have visitation rights.

Legal Custody

This scenario is where one or both parents decide crucial matters for their kid, like school, health care, and religion. One parent may have an ultimate say over such issues, either by mutual agreement or a court order.

Physical Custody

The parent with physical custody is the one the child lives with. The child’s non-custodial parent will often have visitation rights.

Best Interests and New York Custody Laws

When deciding which parent should have physical custody of a child in New York, the court looks first to the child’s best interests. The court uses the child’s best interests to decide if a situation necessitates giving sole custody.

New York custody laws define the specific considerations about a child’s best interests. The following are some examples.

  • How much time does the child spend at each parent’s home?
  • What is the child’s primary residence?
  • Is domestic violence an issue?
  • Does the child have any special needs that one parent is more able to provide for?
  • Are there siblings involved?
  • Which parent can better guide their child’s academic and emotional growth?
  • How likely is it that one parent will make an effort to get along with the other?
  • Is there evidence of parental alienation, in which one parent actively works to have the child reject the other?
  • Which parent is more likely to give the child a healthy upbringing, including providing for their physical, mental, and social needs?
  • Does one parent or both parents have substance abuse problems?
  • What are each parent’s living conditions like?
  • Is there a close relationship between parent and child?
  • Is there an existing custody order or an informal agreement as to custody?
  • What are the parents’ work schedules?
  • Ability to foster religious faith and nurture in a child
  • Absence of domestic partners in the parent’s home.
  • Each parent’s emotional and physical well-being and stability.

Concept image for child custody in New York

How Do Courts Decide Who Gets Child Custody in New York?

The first step that courts take is determining whether they have jurisdiction over the case. Courts have the authority to hear the case if:

  • The child is less than six months old and has spent their entire life in New York.
  • The minor lived in New York for the past six months, and no other state has made an order.
  • The child’s last custody order was issued in New York.
  • The child is in New York because of an emergency in their home state.

When a parent seeks custody, the court will evaluate and determine the best custody arrangement for the child’s well-being. The court considers each parent’s standard of living, mental and physical health, and financial stability.

For instance, the court will look at factors like whether or not a parent uses drugs, whether or not the home is safe, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Domestic abuse is also a crucial determining factor.

The child’s wishes can be communicated to the court via an attorney. The wishes of older children are given more significant consideration, but the court decides where the child resides until they turn 18.

Who Can Get Child Custody in New York?

The mother or legal father can request custody hearings. Any man who has signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity, been granted an Order of Filiation by a court, or is named on a child’s birth certificate has met the requirements to be considered the child’s legal father.

A birth mother’s spouse is also considered a parent even when the child was conceived through in-vitro fertilization or artificial insemination through a written agreement.

A child’s domestic partner of the birth or adoptive parent can establish parental rights even if that person was not married to the parent shown on the birth certificate and did not adopt the child. A separated couple may have to show that they and the other parent planned to have a child together and share parental responsibilities.

No single parent has a greater right to custody. Without a court order, either parent may assume physical custody.

The court may also hear custody requests from the family and friends of the child. Before asking for custody, instead of one of the parents, they must establish that “exceptional circumstances” exist. These include surrender by a parent, abandonment, continuous neglect, unfitness, or prolonged interruption of custody.

Call a New York Family Law Attorney for Help

Various factors are involved when determining the child’s best interests and who gets custody in New York. A court may be reluctant to change the status quo if a child has lived with one parent for a significant amount of time and is doing well.

Custody agreements in New York are commonly referred to as “parenting plans” by some courts. Child custody settlements can encompass all aspects of a case, including visitation and financial assistance for the children involved.

If you need help with family legal matters like custody and divorce, contact the experienced New York family law attorneys at Douglas Family Law Group for some valuable tips.

Call us today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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