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Child Custody FAQ

What are the two main parts of child custody cases?

When the court awards child custody there is a legal custody and physical custody that they are referring to. Legal custody is in reference to which parent or parents are able to make legal decisions on behalf of the child. Physical custody refers to who the child will reside and live with.

How is joint custody different from sole custody?

When a couple is awarded joint child custody it means that they must make major decisions regarding the child together. All minor daily decisions can be made by the parent who has physically custody of them on that day. However, with sole custody only one parent has the right to make those major legal decisions for the child.

Are the NY courts still able to show preference to the mother or the father when awarding custody?

No. Today family law courts are supposed to remain impartial because each parent, despite their gender roles, has an equal right to seek custody and visitation. Rather, the court is supposed to rule in favor of the custody arrangement that is in the child's best interests.

What do NY courts look at when deciding on a child custody arrangement?

If parents cannot agree on their own child custody arrangement, then it is up to the court to decide what is best. When making this decision they will look at a wide variety of factors including:

  • Who the primary caregiver is
  • Each person's parenting skills, strengths and weaknesses
  • How healthy each parent is both physically and mentally
  • If there is any history of domestic violence
  • What the work schedule is for each parent
  • The relationship that the children have with each parent, their siblings and extended family
  • If the child is of age they will consider the child's preference
  • Whether or not the parents are able to cooperate with each other and encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent

How is child custody resolved through mediation?

By going through mediation, some couples are able to compromise and reach an agreement regarding child custody without having to go to court. Mediation takes place in a private and confidential setting and it is undergone voluntarily by both parties. During mediation a neutral third party can help the two parties communicate compromise and bring their dispute to a resolution.

What happens to the parent who is not awarded sole custody?

In cases where one parent is awarded sole custody, the court will typically offer visitation time between the other parent and the children. They do this so that the children can continue to have a relationship with both parents.

Can relatives besides the parents seek legal custody of the children?

In order for aunts, uncles or grandparents to be awarded custody of the kids, they must first be able to prove that both parents are unfit to care for them. If the parents have a history of violence, neglect, drug abuse or alcohol dependence, then the court will typically consider awarding legal custody to another relative.

If you have any other questions regarding child custody, please do not hesitate to contact our office to speak with a New York City divorce lawyer.