Mother and child

The Best Interest of the Child Standard

Child custody decisions in New York are guided by the best interest of the child standard. When custody disputes arise and parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will step in to resolve things. To do so, the court will determine what is in the best interest of the child through the use of a number of different factors.

The Best Interest of the Child Standard

It is clear that the best interest of the child standard plays a critical role in New York custody proceedings. It is the guidepost the court follows to reach custody decisions. Thus, it is critical for parents involved in such disputes to be familiar with the factors the court will likely consider in resolving child custody issues. As you may have guessed, many of the factors focus on the ability of each parent to support and care for the physical and emotional needs of the child.

For instance, the court will consider the ability of each to provide suitable child care arrangements. It is often the case that both parents have to work and so child custody preferences may be given to that parent that can adequately provide child care for the child while he or she is at work. Preference may also be given to the parent who has played the role of primary caretaker of the child prior to the parents’ divorce or separation. The primary caretaker refers to that parent that spent significantly more time caring for the child and participating in other activities with the child, often while the other parent worked.

Any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse or misuse can also impact child custody decisions. The parent found to be struggling with substance abuse problems may be less likely to receive custody of the child. Evidence of any untreated mental illness personality disorders or emotional instability will also count against a parent in child custody proceedings. In addition to the mental health of each parent, the physical health of each parent may also be considered in resolving child custody disputes.

It is also important to note that the court will likely consider what custody arrangement would provide the child with the most stability. This can mean that should a child already be living with one parent, then the court may want the child to remain with that parent in their home as opposed to changing the custody and living arrangements. If the custody arrangement is already working, the court may be hesitant to disrupt things.

In certain instances, the preference of the child will be taken into consideration. This can greatly depend on the age of the child, will children closer to 18 years having more weight given to their preferences. The court, however, will closely scrutinize the reasons behind a child’s preference. After all, a court will be wary of giving significant weight to a child’s preference if that preference is built solely on something like preferring one parent because they do not have any rules in their house.

Other factors the court may consider in determining the best interest of the child include:

  • Evidence of spousal abuse
  • The financial health of each parent
  • The home environment each parent can provide
  • The educational opportunities each parent can provide
  • Court observations of the parents
  • Any other factor that might impact the best interests of the child

Syracuse Family Law Attorneys

If you are in the midst of child custody issues, do not delay in reaching out to CDH Law for assistance. When it comes to matters of children and family, you need dedicated legal counsel who will work tirelessly to advocate on your behalf. Contact us today.

Mother and child

How to Give Yourself the Best Chance of Winning Child Custody

For parents considering divorce, the possibility of losing child custody is often the most distressing component. In fact, this issue frequently keeps individuals in an unhappy, or even abusive, marriage for years. Knowing that unless you and your spouse can agree on custody terms, the court will decide, perhaps mistakenly, what will be in the best interests of your offspring can delay divorce indefinitely. This article is designed to offer you advice that may give you an edge when it comes to winning child custody and freeing yourself from the bonds of a painful union.

The first step in giving yourself the advantage in this situation is finding a family law attorney with strength, skill, and in-depth knowledge of child custody laws in your state, like CDH Law, in Syracuse, New York. Our divorce attorneys have outstanding credentials and a track record of successful outcomes.

There Are Two Kinds of Child Custody

Legal custody, which is usually awarded jointly, refers to the power to make major decisions for the child, such as those involving education, religion, and medical care. Physical custody determines with whom the child will live. The latter is the type of custody parents are typically most concerned about during divorce negotiations and litigation. 

Though joint physical custody may seem most fair, it is often immensely difficult to arrange due to factors like the distance between the homes of the two parents and the location of the child’s school, friends, and other family members. There are also many situations in which the parent fighting for custody feels that the other parent is unfit or unable to provide a suitable home for the child. Whatever the circumstances of your upcoming divorce, having a savvy divorce attorney can make all the difference in providing you with the outcome you want.

Be Cordial, Controlled, Consistent

Although this advice may seem impossible during the angry, frustrating period preceding your divorce, it is essential to keep your eye on the prize. If you want to end up having custody of your child, you will have to:

Communicate civilly with your spouse, especially in front of your child

As you know, children hear, and often unexpectedly repeat, everything, including things you tell them about their other parent. Judges will not take kindly to hearing, or hearing about, angry outbursts or negative comments by one parent about the other. This extends to communications with neighbors, teachers, etc., and definitely includes derogatory comments on social media websites. The nastier the words you use, the more likely they are to come back to haunt you. One thing you definitely want to avoid is hearing another person speak your damaging words from the witness stand under oath.

Keep your hands to yourself unless you’re giving a hug

Tension levels can elevate quickly during discussions with your soon-to-be-ex, as well as within your family generally. When you want to lash out that is precisely when you must exert self-control. A slap, a push, a fist through a wall, even a hand raised in threat, can interfere with your best intentions, result in a restraining order, and reducing your chances of reconstructing a smaller, more stable family unit. 

Also, refrain from damaging your spouse’s clothing, important papers, car or other belongings. No matter what the provocation, such actions will make you look like the aggressor and a poor role model for your child.

Keep your private life as private as possible

Try to keep new romantic partners away from your child, or at least don’t treat a newcomer like an intimate in her presence. There is no reason to make the situation more complicated or emotionally confusing for your child than it already is, at least until the divorce is final.

Meet your obligations relative to the child’s other parent

Even if the agreed-on arrangements about childcare are temporary and not yet legally binding, the court will take a dim view of your failing to have the child ready for a visit with the other parent or delay bringing the child back to the other parent in a timely fashion. By the same token, failing to meet your financial obligations will work against you in a big way. Such failures may be perceived as indications of your irresponsibility, or worse, your disregard for your child’s needs.

Do not interfere with your child’s relationship with the other parent

Making it difficult for your child to see his or her other parent is likely to be viewed by the court as a hostile act and may interfere with your obtaining custody. You should make every effort to schedule regular visitation and not to make appointments for non-emergency doctor visits, shopping trips, play dates, or outings during these designated times. Also, it is crucial that you inform the other parent if you will be taking the child out of the area, even on a day trip. The court presumes that both parents have the right to know where their children are.

On the other hand, if possible, don’t interfere with your child’s routine 

Your child’s life, like your own, is in turmoil during this period and it’s important that he can count on keeping to a normal routine. Be mindful of when the child has athletic events, art classes, play rehearsals, or friends’ birthday parties scheduled and try to avoid depriving him of the opportunity to participate in the things he enjoys. Otherwise, you will create increased tension between the child and yourself and he may express reluctance to see you which obviously won’t help you in court.

Your behavior can make substantive differences in the way the custody situation is decided. If you follow the above suggestions and engage the services of a fine family law attorney, you will greatly increase your chances of getting the child custody arrangements you want.

Is New York a 50/50 Custody State?

Is New York a 50/50 Custody State?

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.

Family Law Attorneys

The dedicated family law attorneys at CDH Law are committed to zealously advocating on behalf of our clients and their families. We are here for you and your loved ones as you go through major life changes and will support you every step of the way! Contact us today.

CDH Law PLLC discusses how you can modify a parenting plan.

Parenting Plan Modification

The primary purpose of a parenting plan is to address who will have legal and physical custody of a child. Legal custody refers to the right of a parent or guardian to make decisions regarding your child. There can be sole legal custody or joint legal custody and this can be included in the parenting plan. Additionally, the plan should address, in cases where joint custody is being established, how the parents are going to share or divide the decision making duties relating to the child.

Physical custody refers to where the child will reside. Again, there can be sole physical custody or joint physical custody. The parenting plan can also include a visitation schedule to show when the child will be with either parent. If a parent wants to modify a parenting plan, it is usually because he or she is looking to alter the custody agreement relating to the child.

How do I modify custody as laid out in the parenting plan?

For whatever reason, you or the child’s other parent or guardian may wish to revisit the parenting plan and modify child custody and visitation. In some instances, the parents prefer to do so informally. Both parents may agree on an alternate custody agreement and are fine not petition the court to modify the existing custody order.

It is always nice to see successful co-parenting and parents being able to reach agreements on their own about such issues. The informal arrangement can be a great short-term solution, but the informal nature of this arrangement is a big downside.

If only an informal modification to a custody plan has been made by mutual agreement of the parents, one parent may at some time unilaterally wish to enforce the originally established custody schedule. If this were to happen, the other parent would have no legal standing to prevent this from happening. This is why it is best to seek a formal child custody modification through the court system. Once a judge has agreed to a new custody arrangement, the order will be legally binding on all parties.

It is unlikely, however, that a judge will grant a request for modification of child custody without proof that you or the other parent has experienced a substantial change in circumstances. The substantial change in circumstances must have had a profound impact on the efficacy of the originally established custody arrangement and that it would be in the best interest of the child to modify the custody arrangement. A substantial change in circumstances may mean that one parent got a new job or lost an existing job. One of the parents may have gotten remarried. There may be criminal conduct that now needs to be considered.

Additionally, a judge may hear a request to alter custody arrangements if the child who is subject to the custody plan is 12 years of age or older and wants to spend more time with one parent.

New York Child Custody Attorneys

If you are looking to modify an existing child custody arrangement, the trusted family law attorneys at CDH Law are here to help. We can discuss your options with you and work on a plan to present to the court for approval. Contact us today.