According to U.S. News and World Report, New York had a divorce rate of 6.1% in 2019. Going through a divorce is emotionally challenging, especially when it involves children.
In New York, the process of determining child custody is a pivotal aspect of divorce proceedings, centered on safeguarding the best interests of the child.
Types of custody
New York recognizes two primary types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody addresses where the child will reside, while legal custody deals with decision-making authority concerning the child’s upbringing.
The law also recognizes both joint custody and sole custody arrangements. Joint custody involves shared decision-making and, at times, shared physical custody. It allows both parents to participate in important aspects of the child’s life. In contrast, sole custody grants one parent primary responsibility for the child’s physical and legal custody, with the noncustodial parent typically having visitation rights.
Focus of the process
The guiding principle of the child custody determination process is the best interests of the child. This means that the court’s primary focus is on meeting the child’s physical, emotional and developmental needs in a stable and nurturing environment.
To determine what arrangement serves the child’s best interests, the court assesses several factors. These include:
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable and loving home environment
- The child’s preferences
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The child’s existing relationships with siblings, extended family members and the community
- The ability of each parent to encourage and support a healthy and ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent
Some form of joint custody is often the goal, but the best interests of the child are the ultimate aim of the court.
The law encourages mediation to reach an agreement on child custody. Mediation offers a less adversarial and more cooperative approach to crafting a custody arrangement. When parents can agree on custody terms, the court usually approves the plan as long as it aligns with the child’s best interests.
However, when parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, the court intervenes and makes a determination. The court may appoint an attorney for the child, known as a Law Guardian or Attorney for the Child, who represents the child’s interests. The court may also order evaluations and assessments to assist in making the custody decision.
The child custody determination process in New York divorce cases is a comprehensive approach to assess various factors and determine the most suitable custody arrangement.