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Rockland & Westchester County Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Child Custody > Understanding Child Custody Rules in New York State

Understanding Child Custody Rules in New York State


Of all the issues surrounding a divorce, child custody and visitation is the most emotionally charged. Arming yourself with knowledge of how New York State courts make decisions concerning child custody can help better prepare you for the process. Whether you mediate your divorce or the matter goes before a judge to decide, you will want to understand how the court makes key decisions related to issues pertaining to child custody. In this article, the Westchester County child custody attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert S. Sunshine will discuss how the courts decide matters related to child custody in New York State.

Mediation versus litigation in child custody matters 

When you go to family court to hammer out a child custody agreement, the judge may encourage both parents to reach an agreement between themselves. This can be achieved in mediation with the help of a skilled mediator. In cases where custody matters are not in dispute, the mediator can help the parents devise a parenting plan that meets the needs of their children together. If the couple cannot reach an agreement or there are allegations of abuse, neglect, or one parent claiming the other is unfit, then the matter might have to go before a judge to decide. In these cases, the judge renders any final decision and the outcome is out of the parent’s hands.

Courts generally default on the notion that it’s in the best interests of the children to have both parents play an active role in their lives. One party must present evidence that this is not the case for the court to issue a ruling that deviates from this standard. This can include allegations of abuse and neglect or other allegations that indicate that the parent is unfit to raise the children.

The best interests of the child standard 

The New York courts use a standard to determine child custody that is based on the best interests of the child. The courts are thus required to balance the ability of both parents to rear the children effectively and compassionately.

To determine the best interests of the child, the court will weigh several factors. One factor that the court uses to determine the best interests of the child is stability. Priority in custody disputes is usually awarded to the parent who already has primary custody. The court has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo for the child. If the child spends the majority of their time with one parent, then the court will usually award primary physical custody to the parent with whom the child spent the most time.

Several other factors such as abuse and neglect may force the courts to consider arrangements that include supervised visitation or no visitation at all. A spouse must be able to prove these elements if they want to prevent the other spouse from having access to the children.

Talk to a Rockland County Child Custody Attorney Today 

The Rockland and Westchester County child custody attorneys at the Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine represent the interests of divorcing parents in custody disputes. Call our office today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your best moves immediately.

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