Child custody is one of the most, if not the most, important issues to address in a divorce case. It is also often the most contentious issue. When it comes to children, all of the emotions and stress of starting a post-divorce chapter with your family can come pouring out. It is important to understand the laws regarding child custody determination. If you and the other parent cannot reach an agreement on custody and visitation, the court will do so for you.
Is New York a 50/50 Custody State?
New York is not a 50/50 custody state in that there is no automatic presumption that custody will be a 50/50 split between the two parents. Should it be up to the court to determine custody, the court will weigh many factors in determining custody arrangements. Both legal custody and physical custody must be addressed. Legal custody refers to the power to make important life decisions about a child and how the child is raised. It is common for legal custody to be evenly split between the parents so that both have an equal say in the child’s upbringing. In some cases, however, one parent may have the last word on legal custody issues.
There is also physical custody that will need to be addressed. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and parenting schedules. Shared physical custody, also referred to as joint custody, is, generally speaking, preferred so that the child gets time with both parents. The specific division of parenting time, however, will depend on the court’s evaluation of what would be in the best interest of the child.
Among the lengthy list of factors the court will weigh to reach a custody arrangement are:
- The length of time a child has lived with either parent;
- The child’s primary residence;
- Any special needs of the child and the ability of each parent to meet them;
- The parenting skills of each parent;
- Any history of domestic violence in the family;
- Any history of drug abuse or alcoholism for either parent;
- Siblings and whether siblings should be kept together;
- The probability of a parent fostering a positive relationship with the other parent;
- The preference of the child (depending on age and maturity);
- The ability of each parent to create a positive and nurturing home environment;
- The work schedules of each parent; and
- The mental and physical well-being of each parent.
Consideration of these factors and any other factor the court deems to be relevant to the child custody analysis will lead to the final custody determination. As previously stated, there is no presumption of 50/50 custody in New York. The court will strive to establish a custody arrangement that best meets the needs and best interests of the child. This could be a 50/50 custody arrangement, or it could be something else.
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