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.

I Had Another Child, Can I Get Child Support Reduced?

After a separation or divorce, life keeps moving forward. For many, it can feel like the start of a new chapter. You are likely to go on and build new relationships. You may even end up having more kids. With changes in circumstances, such as a new child, you may wonder how that can impact something like child support obligations in regards to your child or children from a previous relationship. Here, we will address if and how having another child can impact child support obligations.

I Had Another Child, Can I Get Child Support Reduced?

First and foremost, it must be made clear that having another child will not, in and of itself, automatically lead to a reduction in a child support obligation. You will need to take action in order to have your child support obligation modified. It will not be reduced just because you had another child. If your situation merits it, you will need to take concerted steps to have your child support agreement modified to reflect your current circumstances.

It is interesting to note that, previously, New York prescribed to the common law approach when it came to additional children impacting an existing child support order. Pursuant to common law, New York did not recognize having a new child as a valid basis for modifying an existing child support order. This was justified through the reasoning that there was a primary duty to support children from a previous relationship and it was the person’s choice if he or she decided to go on to another relationship and have more kids.

Through the evolution in New York law, New York courts presently recognize that, while there is a duty to act in the best interest of the children’s best interest that is referenced in an existing child support order, the needs of the new child should not be ignored. This is why New York courts now recognize that having a new child can be considered as a substantial change in circumstance that could potentially merit a change in a child support order. This is commonly a factor considered when the custodial parent requests an increase in support from the payor parent who has a new child. It is also becoming more frequently recognized as a valid point to consider in modification petitions where the parent with the new child is requesting a reduction in an established child support order.

Before you petition for a modification of an existing child support order, you should know that a judge may look at your income and, should this circumstance apply, your new spouse’s income as well. Under the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA), which dictates how courts are to award child support), a judge can consider a modification request due to a new child only in the event that the available resources to support the new child are less than those resources available to support the child or children from a previous relationship. To put it another way, your modification request will only move forward if the combined income of you and your new spouse is either greater than or equal to the combined income of you and your former partner.

Family Law Attorneys

Child support issues can be complex and become even more complicated as life circumstances change. At CDH Law, our trusted family law attorneys can answer your questions. Contact us today.

What Should I Look For in a Family Law Attorney?

Choosing a family law attorney can be a daunting task when you may already be in the middle of an overwhelming situation. Whether a divorce, child custody issue, or other family law matter, having the right attorney by your side can not only make the difference as to the outcome of your case, but it can also make a huge difference as to how you handle the entire process. Here are some tips on what to look for when you are selecting a family law attorney.

What to Look For in a Family Law Attorney

One of the most important things you need to consider when selecting a family law attorney is whether or not you think you can have a positive, trusting relationship with him or her. Trust is essential, especially in family law matters. You will have to disclose some very personal details to your attorney. It may be sensitive, or even embarrassing information you need to disclose, but your attorney must be privy to the whole story to most effectively represent you. Find an attorney that you trust and with whom you feel as comfortable as you can talking about personal details relevant to your case.

Find a lawyer that you find the ease of communication with. Your personality needs to be compatible with your attorney for the working relationship you are looking to form. You should also feel confident that your attorney cares about your case and has listened to your goals and needs. While you want an attorney who will move your case forward and see it through to its conclusion, you do not want to feel rushed. Family law often involves major life changes. A quick case resolution is often desired, but a quick, efficient resolution is different from a rushed resolution.

There are also the logistics of representation that you will want to be clear on when looking for a family law attorney. For instance, will the attorney’s fees work within your budget? Being upfront and talking about money is important. While you want your case to be successful, you do not want to empty your bank account in the process. If you are usually uncomfortable talking about money, don’t be here. Attorneys are used to discussing fees and costs with clients and potential clients. In fact, the right attorney will appreciate you wanting to engage in a frank discussion about fees so that you can budget accordingly.  

Last, but not least, you want to look for a family law attorney with extensive experience in practicing family law. Family law has its own unique procedures and complexities which make it preferable to have an attorney skilled in navigating these legal waters in particular. Ask a potential attorney about his or her experience in family law. Has he or she handled cases similar to yours? The attorney should be able to answer your family law questions in a direct way that you can understand.

Family Law Attorneys

At CDH Law, our team of dedicated family law attorneys remains committed to serving the best interests of our clients. Contact us today.

How Do You Establish Paternity in New York?

While every child has a biological father, not every child has a legal father. Establishment of paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child. While there is an automatic presumption in New York that a father married to the mother at the time of birth is the legal father, when the mother is unmarried or there are questions as to whether the child is the biological child of the mother’s husband, paternity issues may arise. Establishment of paternity is an important step to take and is critical to making sure the rights of a father and a child are maximized under the law.

How Do You Establish Paternity in New York?

In most situations, paternity needs to be established when a child is born to unmarried parents. In New York, if the mother is married at the time of birth, the husband is presumed to be the father. When a child is born to unmarried parents in New York, there is no legal father. In this situation, unmarried parents can establish paternity in one of two ways. The first way is by signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. The second way is to petition a court to determine paternity.

Establishing paternity by use of a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form should only be used if there are no doubts as to who the biological father is. If there are doubts as to the identity of the biological father, then paternity should be established by petitioning the court. In New York, the following parties have the right to initiate a paternity action in court:

  • Mother
  • Purported father
  • Child
  • Guardian of the child
  • Representative from a charitable organization
  • Representative from a public welfare agency

In petitioning the court to establish paternity, the court will order genetic testing of the mother, child, and purported father. If the purported father is the biological father, then the court will issue an order of filiation which declares him to be the legal father of the child.

Upon establishment of paternity, the child will be eligible to receive financial support from both parents. This support may come in the form of:

  • Child support
  • Inheritance rights
  • Veterans benefits
  • Social Security benefits

The child will also be able to access benefits under medical or life insurance policies held by either parent. In addition to these benefits, the child will have the added benefit of having a father listed on his or her birth certificate. The child will also have relevant family medical history available.

Family Law Attorneys

Establishment of paternity can be an important matter in the life of a parent and a child. If you are exploring a possible paternity action, the experienced family law attorneys at CDH Law are here to provide you with reliable legal counsel and support. For any questions you may have, we are here to provide you with much needed answers. Contact us today.