Child Custody

How Does A New York Court Determine The Best Interests Of A Child For Custody?

Martin Mohr
March 7, 2022

The primary factor in determining which parent will get physical and/or legal custody of a child in New York is the “best interest” of the child. In other words, the courts must balance the ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child – and create the custody agreement accordingly.

But what does that mean, and which factors are evaluated when determining the best interests of the child? In this blog from New York Family Law Group, we’ll look at a few common things that are taken into account by the court.

1. Parental Stability

In a custody dispute, priority is often awarded to the parent who first gets custody, either as ordered by the court or as part of a voluntary agreement.

For example, if your spouse leaves you for two months and you raise the child without their presence in your home, the court will take this into account when considering custody, and are likely to award custody to you, rather than changing it to the other parent. 

2. Child Care Arrangements

If one parent is more able to provide necessary childcare, such as day care, babysitters, or at-home childcare, this will be taken into account when determining custody. 

3. Primary Caretaker 

The child’s primary caretaker will be considered during custody. For example, in a relationship where one parent stays at home to care for the child and the other works, the stay-at-home parent is more likely to have a claim for custody. 

4. Misuse Of Drugs And Alcohol

Any kind of substance abuse issue will dramatically affect custody arrangements. Courts will always prefer to place children in homes where there are no unhealthy or illicit activities that may affect their health, happiness, and level of care.

5. Mental Health And Overall Stability

Emotional instability, mood disorders, and untreated mental illnesses may affect the awarding of custody. Parents suffering from these issues are less likely to get custody. 

6. Physical Health Of The Parents

If one parent is severely disabled or ill and cannot properly care for a child, this will be factored into the custody arrangement.

7. Spousal Abuse Or Child Abuse

Evidence of spousal abuse or child abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment will reflect very poorly on the responsible party. In addition to potentially facing criminal charges, they are very unlikely to get custody. 

8. Finances Of Each Parent

For example, if one parent is unemployed and does not have the financial means to provide stable housing, and the other parent is stable and has adequate housing, the latter parent is more likely to get custody. 

9. Where The Child’s Siblings Live

Courts always try to keep children together, so if one or more children are already living with one parent, the court is more likely to award custody to this parent. 

10. Safety And Conditions Of The Home Environment 

The court will not place a child in an unsafe or dangerous home environment. Dangerous items in the home, overall quality of living conditions, violent partners or friends, and other such conditions will be taken into account when determining custody.

Our New York Child Custody Attorneys Are Here To Help You In New York

Whether you’re just beginning divorce proceedings, or you already have a child custody order in place and are seeking a modification to the order, New York Family Law Group is here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at 718-293-1542 to speak with an experienced child custody lawyer today, explain your situation, and see how we can help.