Child Custody

5 Common Factors Influencing New York Child Custody Cases

Last updated on March 28, 2024

Every marriage has its share of problems, but when things really start to go south for some couples, the decision to divorce becomes apparent. The decision to end a marriage, particularly when children are involved, is never easy. Couples often stay in a bad situation because they do not want to go through the emotional turmoil that comes with divorce or are afraid of what it might do to their children. Many people are also scared and unprepared for the prospect of living without their children full-time.

It is important for couples going through a divorce to understand the variables that affect child custody cases and what you can do to optimize a positive outcome for your children in the event that divorce becomes the only viable option.

In this blog, we’ll focus on five of the most common factors that impact child custody cases in New York, and how they come into play in a child custody case.

Types Of Custody

Legal Custody

A parent who has legal custody of their child is entitled to make decisions regarding their upbringing and care. The parent granted legal custody by the courts has the legal authority to make decisions regarding their child’s health, education, and religious practices.

In New York divorce cases, the question of legal custody is frequently decided by the court on the basis of what it determines to be the child’s best interests. Sometimes the court may decide to grant shared legal custody, typically known as joint custody, where both parents can share the right to make important decisions about the child. In joint custody, both parents share legal custody, even if the child primarily resides with one parent. Sometimes the court may decide that one parent should have sole legal custody, giving that parent the exclusive right to make those decisions.

The parents can reach an agreement on legal custody without the involvement of a court by engaging in mediation or simply negotiating through their attorneys. By working together, parents can determine the most equitable legal custody arrangement for their child.

Physical Custody 

Physical custody is determined by which parent the child will reside with and for how long. In New York divorce cases, there are two primary types of physical custody, and each physical custody arrangement is tailored to the child and the parents’ unique set of circumstances. These two arrangements are:

    1. Sole Custody

In a sole custody arrangement, the child lives with one parent full-time, and the other parent has visitation. Sole physical custody is typically ordered if one parent can best meet the child’s needs or if there are concerns about the other parent having the child, such as the other parent having a new partner or being known to abuse alcohol or drugs. Sole physical custody is also often awarded when one parent makes the decision to move out of state or even abroad. With this arrangement, the custodial parent lives with the child and sees the noncustodial parent less frequently, typically during the holidays or during the summer when school is not in session.

    2. Shared Custody

In shared custody arrangements, both parents have co-equal living arrangements with the child. This may mean that the child is living with each parent for approximately the same amount of time. The idea that both parents should be involved in raising their child is stressed. Common shared custody arrangements involve a weekly rotation of the child staying with one parent, or the child living primarily with the other parent on certain evenings and weekends. Depending on the particulars of each situation, more frequent exchanges might be planned if the parents live close to one another.

Visitation Rights

An essential component of a New York divorce is the visitation schedule for the parents. Parental visitation or parenting time allows the non-custodial parent to spend time with the child. When establishing visitation rights, the judge considers several factors, the most crucial of which is what is best for the child. These factors include:

  • The child’s age – The age of the child affects the visitation schedule. For younger children to develop a bond with both parents, shorter, more frequent visits may be necessary. Visitations may also increase in time as the child ages during adolescence to allow longer visits and more freedom.
  • Living proximity: How far the parents’ homes are from each other will also play a role. If the parents live far apart, the time allocated to visitation with both parents might not necessarily be long and uninterrupted and could include weekends, vacations, or school breaks. If the parents live closer, the court might instead order communication more frequently and for shorter, weekday visits.
  • Safety concerns: The visiting child must stay in a safe and healthy home with both parents. The court will look into each parent’s living situation and see if either parent can meet the child’s physical and emotional needs. They will also look into whether visiting is unsafe for the child or the other parent. If a child’s safety is at risk, the court may order supervised visitation. A third party will watch over the visits to make sure the child is safe and healthy. Visitation schedules are created in New York following a divorce to ensure that the child’s best interests are served and the wishes of each family are satisfied.

Child’s Best Interests Considerations

The court always gives the best interests of the child the top priority in child custody arrangements in New York divorces. The court cares about whether the child is safe emotionally, physically, and mentally. As with all other aspects of child custody, a number of factors are considered by the court in identifying the child’s best interests, including:

  • The parent-child relationship: The bond between parent and child is an important issue to consider. The court assesses the specific role of each parent and how much time they have invested in their child’s life. If a child has a particularly close bond with one parent, the court will consider that in determining the child’s best interests.
  • Parental capability: Another important issue is whether one parent is more capable than the other of supporting the child. The court takes into account his or her financial situation, housing situation, and available support system. Where the child will have access to education, healthcare, and other needs also affects the court’s custody decision.
  • Child’s preference: If a child is old enough, their wishes will be taken into account. The courts decide custody based on the best interests of the child, but children’s wishes might push them in one direction or another. The child’s preferences are weighed against the other factors in order to give the child a voice but in the end, the court will ultimately make the final decision

Mediation And Alternative Dispute Resolutions 

New York State now recognizes mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods such as collaboration, parent coordination, informal negotiation, or arbitration as good means to reach child custody agreements. These methods put a focus on communication, cooperation, and the welfare of children. Mediation and alternative conflict resolution are appealing to many separating and divorcing spouses, especially those who are prepared to work toward solutions and put their child’s needs before their own anger and emotional claims.

Mediation and alternative dispute resolution for child custody in New York divorces can help parents cooperate, reduce conflict, and focus on the best interests of the child, leading to improved results and a more positive co-parenting relationship.

Benefits Of Mediation And ADR

Given New York’s reputation for having one of the busiest, most expensive family courts, mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods are appealing for child custody cases for the following reasons:

  • Parental confidentiality: mediation allows parents to be open and honest without worrying about their discussions being revealed publicly.
  • Mediation avoids expensive court processes, saving money.
  • Mediation resolves custody conflicts faster, allowing parents and children to move on.
  • Collaborative co-parenting reduces conflict and fosters harmony, which is crucial for children.
  • Customization: instead of letting the court decide, parents can modify the custody arrangement to meet their needs.

Modifications And Enforcement

Custody arrangements may be modified, for example, if a parent moves or the child’s needs significantly change. They are not set in stone. If a parent fails to adhere to the custody agreement, courts have actions in place to enforce the orders. It may become necessary to make adjustments to these parenting schedules in order to ensure the growth and well-being of the children. It may become more challenging for a parent to adhere to the parenting plan if they move, take on more responsibilities, change jobs, or go through other significant life changes. In certain situations, the court may decide to alter the custody schedule. 

A parent must abide by the provisions of the custody order, which include paying support, visiting the child at predetermined times, and making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. This is known as child-custody enforcement. Disruption to the child’s stability may occur if these requirements are not fulfilled. It is in the best interests of the child to seek enforcement when a parent violates the terms of the custody agreement. 

The family courts have the authority to modify or uphold child custody agreements. If one parent is not abiding by the terms of their child custody agreement, or if the parents would like to make changes, they can petition the court system to have the agreement enforced. This ensures that child custody orders are both flexible and enforced, providing children with a safe and nurturing environment in which to grow and thrive.

Partner With New York Family Law Group For Your Custody Needs

Creating the right custody arrangement for your children is without question one of the most pressing aspects of your divorce. As such, it is essential that you have legal representation that has the right experience and is also the most appropriate for your situation. At New York Family Law Group, every case is handled by an experienced attorney who will work with you to develop a tailored solution for your unique set of circumstances. 

Whether your divorce is amicable or contentious, our dedicated team will help you find the best plan for your family so that you can make the transition as painless as possible. If you have any questions, please call our team today, and we will assist you in determining the best course of action moving forward.



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