NYC Child Custody and Visitation Lawyers
Getting divorced or separating when you have kids can be really hard. Figuring out child custody and visitation is often the most difficult part. But there are lawyers who can help you through this process in a way that’s best for your kids. This article will explain the basics of child custody law in New York City and how lawyers can help.
What is Child Custody?
Child custody determines which parent the children live with and who makes important decisions about their lives. There are two types of custody in New York:
- Legal Custody: This means the right to make major decisions about the child’s health, education, and welfare. If one parent has sole legal custody, they make these decisions alone. With joint legal custody, both parents make the decisions together.
- Physical Custody: This means where the child lives. The parent they live with most of the time has primary physical custody. The other parent usually gets visitation rights.
Custody arrangements can combine legal and physical custody in different ways. For example, one parent could have sole physical custody while both parents share joint legal custody.
How Do Courts Decide Custody?
The main principle courts use to determine custody is “the best interests of the child.” Some factors judges consider are:
- Which parent has been the child’s primary caretaker?
- The child’s relationship with each parent.
- The mental and physical health of each parent.
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home.
- Any history of domestic violence or child abuse.
- The child’s wishes, depending on their age.
Courts prefer to keep siblings together if possible. They also favor continuity and will generally not change established custody arrangements without good reason.
Can Parents Agree on Custody Themselves?
Yes, parents can create their own custody agreement rather than having the court decide. This is called a parenting plan. It can cover legal and physical custody as well as details like visitation schedules. Parenting plans often work better because the parents crafted them together. Courts will usually approve any reasonable parenting plan agreed to by both parents.
How Does Visitation Work?
Visitation refers to the time non-custodial parents spend with their children. The court can order a visitation schedule – like every other weekend or certain holidays – as part of the custody order. Or parents can agree on the schedule themselves in a parenting plan. Courts encourage frequent and meaningful contact between the non-custodial parent and children.
Changing Existing Custody and Visitation Orders
Custody orders can be modified later if circumstances change. For example, if one parent wants to move far away. But the parent seeking the change must prove to the court that it’s in the child’s best interests. They need to show a significant change in circumstances since the previous order.
How Lawyers Can Help
A good lawyer guides you through the custody process and advocates for an outcome that’s best for your kids. Here’s how they can help:
- Advise whether to seek sole or joint custody based on your situation.
- Negotiate parenting plans out of court.
- Represent you in custody hearings and provide evidence about the child’s best interests.
- Cross-examine witnesses like custody evaluators.
- Draft and file custody petitions and motions.
- Help enforce or modify existing custody orders.
Lawyers also know how to deal with special issues like:
- Emergency temporary custody orders if your child is at immediate risk.
- Relocation requests if the other parent wants to move far away with your kids.
- Protecting children from an abusive or unfit parent.
- Visitation rights for grandparents and other third parties.
A good lawyer does more than just handle the legal process. They also provide emotional support during an extremely difficult time. Family law attorneys see these cases all the time. They can guide you through the chaos, conflict, and uncertainty of custody disputes. This provides invaluable peace of mind.
Finding the Right Lawyer
It’s important to find an attorney who understands your needs and will fight tenaciously for your rights as a parent. Here are some tips:
- Look for a family law specialist with extensive custody experience. This is not the time to hire a general practitioner.
- Find someone who is a good negotiator but also willing to take your case to trial if necessary.
- Consider lawyers recommended by people you trust or local bar associations.
- Meet with the lawyer before hiring to make sure your personalities mesh well.
- Be sure they take time to understand your situation and goals.
- Find out what strategies and experts they use in custody cases.
- Ask plenty of questions and understand what you can expect at each step.
- Make sure you are comfortable with their fees and billing practices.
Going through a custody battle with your co-parent is draining both financially and emotionally. But the right family law attorney makes the process smoother, less stressful, and more likely to result in a favorable outcome for you and your children. Don’t go it alone. Consult a qualified NYC child custody lawyer.
Common Child Custody Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about child custody in New York City:
Can an unmarried father get custody rights?
Yes, as long as paternity is legally established, unmarried fathers have the same custody rights as mothers. They can file for joint or primary physical custody.
How does domestic violence affect custody?
Courts consider a parent’s abusive behavior when determining the child’s best interests. An abusive spouse will likely get limited supervised visitation. Severe violence can result in the loss of custody entirely.
What if the parents live far apart?
For long distance custody, courts often grant primary physical custody to the parent in the child’s current location to minimize disruption. The other parent gets visitation during school breaks and summer vacation.
Can the child choose which parent to live with?
Children’s preferences are considered but not decisive. Their wishes get more weight as they grow older. The court has the final say in all cases.
When does child custody get decided?
Can custody be decided out of court?
Yes, parents can voluntarily agree to custody terms at any time through mediation or settlement negotiations. But the agreement must be approved by the judge and made into a court order.
How is custody affected by remarriage or relocation?
Remarriage or moving out of state provides grounds to request a change in custody, but the parent must prove the child’s best interests require the modification.
Going through a custody battle is incredibly difficult. But good lawyers guide you through the process, advocate for your rights, and help you focus on what really matters – your children. NYC attorneys with experience in custody cases understand how to negotiate and litigate to achieve the best outcome for your kids.