Child custody can be a difficult topic for parents to discuss. Before appearing in New
York family court, it is imperative that both parties understand the definitions
of legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody designates who will have the legal authority to make decisions
on behalf of the child. Where the child will go to school and what religious
upbringing the child will have are examples of the types of decisions
involved. Options of legal custody include sole legal custody and joint
legal custody. In the case of sole legal custody, the court designates
one parent as having the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of
the child. Conversely, a joint custody arrangement gives this legal authority
to both parents. The court usually orders a joint custody arrangement
where both parents equally share the legal authority.
Physical custody, also sometimes referred to as residential custody, defines
where the child lives the majority of the time. There are two common types
of physical custody.
Sole physical custody means the child physically resides in one location
with the court-appointed parent. Unless it has been proven that it is
not in the best interest of the child for any reason, the non-custodial
parent has visitation rights. These visitation rights outline how often
and under what conditions the non-custodial parent can spend time with
the child. Generally, visitation rights are generous and usually include
sleepovers and vacations.
The child splits the time he/she lives with each parent in a joint physical
custody arrangement. Joint physical custody is also known as shared custody.
The child lives with one parent for part of the time, such as half a week
or even half a year, and with the other parent the remainder of the time.
It is important to understand that sharing joint legal custody does not
automatically mean parents share joint physical custody.
A lesser-known and relatively new concept in child custody is Bird's
Nest Custody. In this situation, the child remains in the family home,
but the parents set up separate residences and share their respective
visitation time with the child at the child's home. Some parents prefer
this arrangement because it results in a less disruptive alternative for
the child. However, it can also be an expensive option since the parents
are responsible for supporting three households.
For the best advice to limit the stress of custody hearings,
contact us. One of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys is ready to help you.