Disputes 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 that you get child custody that’s in the best interest of your child as the law requires.
Are There Different Types of Child Custody Agreements in NY?
Under New York child custody laws, the key determinant in child custody and visitation decisions is the best interests of the child as defined by the law. There are basically two types of child custody arrangements: physical custody and 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. Furthermore, the parent with legal custody 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 decisions together.
Physical custody, on the other hand, is related to the parenting schedule or 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 overnights with the child.
The overnight schedule is generally calculated by looking at the parenting time over a 2-week or 14 overnight period. For instance, if one parent has the child for 8 out of 14 overnights, then he/she has physical custody of the child. Vacations and holidays are determined separately from the parenting schedule.
If you are in White Plains, New York, or anywhere throughout the great state of New York and have questions regarding child custody, don’t hesitate to call Douglas Family Law Group at 914-615-9058 for sound legal advice. Our child custody lawyers offer superior advocacy in a wide range of complicated matters.
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 judges consider when determining child custody.
- 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 the 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, school, community, etc.
- Parents’ Finances: The courts usually prefer awarding custody to the parent who can provide the child with adequate food and clothing, a safer neighborhood, a suitable space, etc.
- Parental Fitness: Whether a parent suffers from a drug or alcohol problem or mental instability can influence the decision of the court regarding custody. A history of promiscuity, abuse, or criminal activity may also influence the court’s decision.
- Child’s Preference: Underage children cannot legally speak for themselves, but the court usually takes their preferences into account. In the end, however, the court decides based on what’s in the child’s best interests.
- Relationship With the Parent: Has one parent built a much stronger relationship with the child? Has the child spent hardly any time with one parent and the majority of their time with the other parent before the custody case? These factors can affect the court’s decision.
- Relationship With Others in the Parent’s Household: A child might have a strong relationship with one parent, but if he or she has damaging or poor relationships with other members of that parent’s household, it can hurt that parent’s ability to be awarded custody.
To ensure that you present your best case to the judge and increase the chances of custody being awarded to you, it is important to work with a qualified and experienced child custody lawyer such as those at Douglas Family Law Group.
Our experienced child custody lawyers understand the difficult nature of child custody negotiations and will do their best to build an airtight argument that supports your ability to provide excellent care for your child.
Call us at 914-615-9058 to schedule an appointment with our legal team to learn more.
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’s been a significant change in your circumstance since the original order was issued and that the requested modification is in the best interests of the child.
Significant changes in circumstances may include:
- Financial hardships
- Loss of employment
- Health issues by either party
- Relocation of home
- Domestic abuse or neglect
- The child is now older and has requested a change
The law in New York allows for the modification of custody orders if a parent was deployed by the military and they are requesting the modification upon their return. However, the court will still have to determine that the change is in the child’s best interests before it issues the modification.
The court doesn’t have to grant a modification of the custody order even if you have a substantial change in circumstances. Regardless of why you’re requesting the modification, the court must ensure that it is in the best interests of your child.
Moving Out and Relocation
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 even to a different country.
The non-custodial parent usually opposes the move since the visitation schedule will change thus 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 approval from the Court or the 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, you should contact the 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.
Determining Whether the Relocation Is in the Best Interests of the Child
To determine whether relocation is in the child’s best interests, New York Family Court usually considers the totality of circumstances, which includes but isn’t limited to:
- The impact the move is likely to have on the child’s quality of life
- The quality of the relationship between the child and each parent
- Each parent’s reasons for either wanting to relocate or objecting to the relocation
- If it is feasible for the non-custodial parent to maintain some relationship with the relocated child
- Whether the relocation is likely to make the child’s quality of life better emotionally, financially, and educationally.
If you are seeking to relocate, you are required to prove to the court that you’re doing so for valid reasons such as better job opportunities or remarriage. If you seek to object to the relocation, you’re required to show that moving is unnecessary and likely to affect the child negatively.
The child custody lawyers at Douglas Family Law Group have extensive experience in Court representing both custodial parents looking to relocate and non-custodial parents objecting to relocation. Call us at 914-615-9058 today for more information about how we can help with your child custody issue.
Can We Create a Child Custody Plan Without the Court’s Involvement in New York?
Yes. Child custody plans can be created through informal negotiations with the parents or other parties via alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It is an emerging concept that covers various processes for settling disputes outside the courtroom without a lengthy trial.
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 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 and collaborative family law are the most common types of alternative dispute resolution.
Child Custody Mediation
The vast majority of child custody cases are usually resolved through mediation, which is a form of alternative dispute resolution. 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 avoid 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 involved is an absolute commitment to a settlement. Each side is entitled to legal advice from their lawyers and advocacy is built in at 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 in the process.
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 If the Parents Are Unable to Agree on All Aspects of Child Custody in New York?
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 a priority in such situations. Parents that are unwilling to compromise when it comes to shared parenting agreements may be placing their children’s needs on the back burner, even though this is something they are likely unwilling to admit.
If parents are unable to agree on any aspect of child custody, the courts sometimes have to step in and take control over the creation of the parenting plan. Unfortunately, this is usually far from ideal since courts are usually busy and have to make a decision about a family within a very short amount of time.
It is generally advisable for co-parents to first exhaust all available options when trying to come to an agreement about child custody. Raising children from separate households is quite tough to acclimate to.
Court involvement might not be ideal for all situations, but it’s still useful for determining the best child custody arrangement after divorce, especially in high-conflict cases. However, unless circumstances prevent it, parents should first strive to come to an agreement without 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. Here are the various ways we can help:
- Building a trial-ready custody case
- Preparing, filing, and managing all your legal and court documents
- Suggesting and creating child custody schedules that fit your needs and those of the children
- Finalizing and preparing any agreements or court orders
- Taking your case to trial if necessary.
When fighting for child custody, it is important to have a lawyer you can trust on your side. Fortunately, that’s what you will get when you work with the experienced child custody lawyers at Douglas Family Law Group in White Plains, New York.
Contact an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in New York!
If you are currently in the middle of a child custody dispute, you are not alone. Throughout New York, numerous families going through the process of divorce find themselves in tricky situations regarding child custody.
Douglas Family Law Group is here to help. We can guide you through the process of securing child custody during divorce, scheduling visitation, and obtaining child support.
Our law firm can help you through the stages of divorce and even when a custody issue arises after the divorce. No matter what legal issue you might be dealing with, our child custody lawyers can help. Not only does our team have years of legal experience, but we are also proud to offer a unique approach to each case we take.
Our White Plains, New York child custody lawyers at Douglas Family Law Group have many years of legal experience and have handled numerous child custody cases in the past. If you need an advocate of your rights in a child custody case on your side, call us today at 914-615-9058.