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Rockland & Westchester County Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Child Custody > How Do the New York Courts Determine the Best Interests of the Children in a Child Custody Case?

How Do the New York Courts Determine the Best Interests of the Children in a Child Custody Case?


All states employ some standard to determine child custody in disputed cases. New York is no different. In New York, the courts employ “the best interests of the child” standard. In other words, they prioritize the welfare of the children above all else. In order to make this determination, the court employs several factors as a test to determine the best interests of the children. In this blog post, the Westchester County child custody attorneys at The Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine will discuss factors that determine the best interests of the children in a disputed child custody case.

The children’s stability and the status quo 

In New York, priority is often given to the parent who first gets custody of the children either as ordered by the court or as part of a voluntary agreement. In other words, the parent who has residential or physical custody of the child during the divorce is most likely to retain custody after the divorce. This is because the children are used to living with the parent and preserving the children’s status quo is considered beneficial to the children. The courts are unlikely to change an existing custody agreement that significantly impacts the stability of the children.

Child care arrangements 

If one parent is more able to provide childcare, daycare, babysitters, or stay at home with the children, then this parent will be given precedence in a child custody dispute.

The primary caretaker standard 

New York courts will often give precedence to the parent who can substantially demonstrate that they were the child’s primary caretaker during the marriage or that they assumed that role if the parents were unmarried. The importance of the primary caregiver standard in New York has changed over time. Psychologists have discussed the importance of the bond between a child and their primary caregiver which has led to a recognition that it is a critical factor in determining the child’s best interests. Courts will consider the presence of a primary caregiver in child custody disputes.

Drug and alcohol abuse 

Evidence of substance abuse within a household will negatively impact a parent who is attempting to gain custody of their children. The courts want to ensure that the child is in a safe and nurturing environment.

The physical health of the parents 

The courts want to ensure that a parent is physically or mentally capable of providing a nurturing environment for their children. Parents with disabilities or mental health issues may not be in a position to provide a nurturing environment.

Finances of each parent 

The courts want to ensure that the parent has enough money to provide stable housing, clothing, and food.

The safety of the home environment 

Courts don’t want to place children in an unsafe home environment. Dangerous items in the home, violent partners, or unsanitary living conditions will factor against a parent in a child custody dispute.

Talk to a Rockland County Child Custody Attorney Today 

The Rockland County family law attorneys at The Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine represent the interests of parents in child custody disputes. Call our office today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your case right away.

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