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Suffolk County Child Custody Lawyers

November 12, 2017

Even as marriage rates continue to decline across all age groups, the total divorce rates continue to rise. Today, over half of all people who get married will eventually end up seeking divorce. While this is bad enough when it only involves the end of two people’s loving relationship, it can have truly catastrophic results when it involves the lives of innocent children.

For this reason, it is extremely important that anyone seeking divorce in the Long Island area or anywhere else in the state of New York understand the unique challenges that Family Court presents and the ways in which they can maximize the chance that they will receive a favorable judgement in their case. The single best way that you can ensure you have every edge you can get when coming under the jurisdiction of New York Family Court is to hire skilled and experienced legal counsel, who can guide you through the often complex process of seeking a satisfactory child custody arrangement.

Family Court is very different from criminal or other civil courts

Family Court is not a good place to make your debut as a lawyer while representing yourself. Although you may not have a fool for a client, New York Family Court is built on a highly complex maze of case law and has only limited legal statutes governing its operation. This means that the decisions have a high degree of subjectivity and revolve around what the judge in charge ultimately believes. This loose framework can present challenges to even the most experienced lawyers. Without extensive knowledge of the Family Court process, a person trying to represent themselves in a custody hearing is setting themselves up to be at the total mercy of their opposition.

While controlling laws in Family Court, like Domestic Relations Law 70 are both few and primarily aimed at the most extreme situations, the number of precedent-setting prior cases is enormous. Knowing and understanding this body of case law and being able to apply its precedents to the case at hand is the core set of skills that a good Family Court lawyer brings to the table.

That said, there are a number of established factors that may weigh heavily on whether or not a given parent is awarded the custody they are seeking. Some of the factors that tend to matter a great deal may be surprising to those unfamiliar with New York Family Court. Others may be surprising in how little they matter.

For example, in many cases, a father who is seeking increased visitation rights or full-time custody of his children may assume that, if he can demonstrate to the court that the mother uses alcohol or drugs regularly, then he has a good chance of being awarded sole custody. In practice, this almost never happens. In fact, drug and alcohol use, even where they may be clearly illegal, do not often weigh heavily on a Family Court judge’s decision unless there is severe substance abuse that results in gross neglect of the children.

On the other hand, something as simple as courtroom appearance and behavior can hold great sway over whether a given parent is awarded custody. Another area that be decisive in Family Court decisions is the forensic mental health evaluation. Parents with no history of mental illness or current diagnosis are frequently caught off guard by forensic evaluations stating that the ways in which those parents were observed to interact with the children was in some way dysfunctional. These evaluations can be and frequently are used as evidence in Family Court proceedings and can sway judges’ opinions quite easily.

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