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Manhattan child custody lawyers

November 12, 2017

Throughout the state of New York, the Family Court is the competent jurisdiction in all matters of child custody. While it is always best to handle child custody disputes amicably, between the parents, in many cases, it simply becomes impossible for the legal guardians to satisfactorily work out a custody arrangement. At that point, the parents generally turn to the Family Court system.

In New York State, child custody law is mostly comprised of precedents set in the body of relevant case law. This makes this area of law practice quite complex and unusually subjective, as most rulings involve extensive interpretation of law by the presiding judge rather than a straightforward following of statutory language.

In addition to this, judges in Family Court are usually given unusually wide latitude in the decisions they hand down. This is due to the recognition that every case involving child custody is very unique. Because of this view of the child custody process requiring a high degree of subjectivity, appeals courts have traditionally given great respect to the decisions of Family Court judges. This means that, for all practical purposes, the ruling of a Family Court judge is absolute and final.

Physical versus legal custody

There are two broad categories of child custody. The first is physical, also known as residential custody. As the name implies, this is the custody granted to the parent with which the child primarily lives. In almost all cases, barring extreme disqualifying factors, the parent without physical custody will be permitted a regular visitation schedule to see the children. This may include the children staying at the non-custodial parents home, even multiple nights each week.

The second category of custody is legal custody. This primarily refers to a parent’s right to take part in decisions affecting the child’s well-being. The major decisions that usually fall under custodial consideration are those concerning religion, medical care and education. When parents are granted joint legal custody, this gives either parent absolute veto power over the other. Because this leads quickly to situations of deadlock in cases where the parents cannot get along with each other, the court will usually only award joint legal custody to parents who are on amicable terms.

This means that one parent is frequently denied legal custody. When this happens, it does not mean that the non-custodial parent has forfeited all rights to participate in their child’s upbringing. However, future major decisions will most often need to be routed through the Family Court. These issues can quickly become highly complex, and any parent facing them should always hire competent legal counsel.

What factors may affect the court’s decision on custody?

There are a large number of factors that the court takes into account when considering whether or not to grand a parent sole legal or physical custody. Some of these may include:

  • The parent has a serious mental disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder,
  • one of the parents spends a great deal of time working and is unavailable most of the time to watch after the child,
  • there is any indication at all that the child has been neglected or abused by a parent
  • the parent has repeatedly interfered with court-issued orders or judgements or
  • the parent has been observed to have at-risk behaviors in the presence of or relating to the child.

These are just some of the factors that may decisively sway the judge in one direction or the other. However, this is a far from comprehensive list. You should always seek the counsel of an experienced attorney.

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