Getting a divorce is more than just the end of a partnership, it is also a transition for the entire family. This is particularly true for those who have children. Parents who are going through a divorce have to navigate more than just the distribution of assets, they also have to put together a future that will help ensure their children’s success.
Parents have two unique issues to navigate during divorce: child custody and child support. This post will focus specifically on child custody. This piece will also deal specifically about how New York State laws impact child custody determinations.
Step 1: Know the types of custody
New York state law allows for two primary forms of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the parent who has the ability to make decisions about the child’s care. Some common examples include decisions about medical care, educational options, and religious upbringing. Depending on the circumstances, typically parents will have joint legal custody and make decisions jointly that affect their children.
Physical custody, in contrast, refers to the parent responsible for the actual care and supervision of the child. The child typically resides with the parent who has primary physical custody.
Step 2: Know the process
Parents file for custody in the county the child lives in Family Court, or, if they are married, they can file as part of their Divorce Action in Supreme Court.
Parents can either create a child custody agreement on their own or the court will decide if the parents cannot agree. If the parents put together a custody arrangement, the court will generally consent. If not, the judge will hold a custody hearing. This can include witnesses and legal counsel as well as the Judge and a caseworker or guardian for the child, if needed.
The court will generally review the best interests of the child when making its determination. The court will examine a wide range of factors including the relationship each parent has with the child, the mental and physical health of each parent, the work schedules of each, the ability of the parents to cooperate, among others, that can impact the health and safety of the child.
Each parent can present witnesses to testify to their ability to meet their child’s needs. In some cases, depending on the age of the child, the judge will also consider the child’s preferences.
Step 3: Know you are not alone
Divorce is intimidating. It requires a knowledge of the law and how those laws impact your family. But know that you do not have to go through this process alone. You can seek legal counsel to advocate for your interests, to discuss the impact of various options and better ensure your rights are protected through the process.