Determining child custody can be one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce or separation. Depending on your situation, child custody negotiations can be a straightforward, objective process or an emotional, drawn-out battle. The courts urge couples to approach child custody negotiations based on what is best for the child. New York uses a “best interests” test in determining custody and visitation rights. If you and your spouse or partner are considering divorce or separation, and have questions about child custody arrangements, it's wise to speak to a family law attorney. Using the form on this page, contact the lawyers of Gordon, Tepper & DeCoursey, LLP. Our child custody attorneys in Glenville serve Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, and the Capital District and Upstate New York.
- What Does "Child Custody" Mean?
- How the Court Determines Custody Arrangements
- Developing a Parenting Schedule
- Modifying a Parenting Schedule
WHAT DOES "CHILD CUSTODY" MEAN?
Child custody encompasses both physical and legal custody of a child. Physical custody of a child refers to the parent with whom the child will primarily reside. The court may decide that both parents should share physical custody of the child. If the court grants sole physical custody to one parent, a parenting schedule typically will be drawn up for the non-custodial parent. Legal custody is granted to the parent who is responsible for making major decisions about the child's education, religion, healthcare, etc. The court may decide that one or both parents are responsible for making these decisions. In order for a joint custodial arrangement to succeed, both parents must be able to cooperate with one another. Joint custody contemplates that parents will confer about major issues pertaining to the child, such as matters involving health, education and the child’s activities. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, that parent typically will make all of the decisions concerning the child.
HOW THE COURT DETERMINES CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS
The philosophical cornerstone of New York's child custody laws is that regular contact with both parents is normally what is best for the child. Courts and experts believe children thrive with two parents that are active in their lives. It's important that the custody arrangement maximizes the child's access to both parents while still being convenient with the parents' work schedules and responsibilities.
If the parents cannot agree on who should retain custody of the child after a divorce or separation, the court will step in and make the decision for the couple. The court will consider many factors, including but not limited to the following:
- The main caregiver up until the point of custody determination
- The health of both parents
- Each parent's parenting skills
- Each parent's ability to provide for any special needs of the child
- Any instances of domestic violence
- The child’s wishes and desires (depending on his or her age)
- Which parent has the most stable home environment
- Whether a parent fosters or encourages a relationship between the child and the other parent or whether the parent alienates the child against the other parent
The best thing a parent can do to prepare for a child custody hearing is to hire a team of experienced attorneys to ensure the protection of his or her rights. The Albany-area firm of Gordon, Tepper & DeCoursey, LLP, has been representing parents in custody cases for many years.