In most states, including New York, Courts consider the best interests of the child when making a custody determination. There is no prima facie or default standard for determining which parent should have primary custody. Instead, the Courts weigh a number of factors in making its determination. The legal system can be complex, and can feel overwhelming when something as important as custody of your child is at issue. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the system, explain the process to you, and build a strategy with you that will increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
The Best Interests of the Child Standard
The “best interest of the child” standard requires a judge to determine the capability of each parent to satisfy the needs of the child/ren. The “best interest of the child” is based on a comprehensive assessment of a family’s situation, and it is unusual for only one factor to totally determine custody. Some of the factors a judge may assess include, but are not limited to:
- Primary Care Giving: The Courts will determine who the primary caregiver of the child is and will weigh this factor heavily.
- Availability to Care for the Child: The Courts will consider whether one parent is more available to care for the child than the other in order to reduce the time the child may have to spend in the care of third-parties.
- Ability to Foster a Relationship with the Other Parent: The Courts will consider whether parents have shown the ability to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent.
- Siblings: The Courts will consider whether granting custody of a child to one parent would result in separating a child from its siblings
- Environment: The Courts will consider which parent can provide more suitable and more stable living arrangements for the child. A disparity in income may not weigh as heavily with the court if the disparity can be resolved by an award of child support.
- Voluntary Arrangements Between the Parties: The Courts are less likely to disturb existing arrangements between the parties if the child is thriving under those arrangements. For example, if the parties have agreed to let the child live with its father for two years, the Courts will take this into consideration in determining what the parties thought was in the child’s best interest.
- Existing Orders: Any existing orders regarding custody and visitation will be a factor in a child custody proceeding, and higher standards will be applied before the court will modify those orders.
- Drugs and Alcohol: Evidence of substance abuse can make it less likely for one parent to win custody.
- Domestic Violence: Domestic violence by one parent against the other parent, or toward the children, is a factor that the Courts must consider.
- Child’s Preference: The court will try to ascertain the child’s wishes, and the older the child is, the more likely a Court will listen to their custodial preferences. This is not an exhaustive list, and Family Courts in New York may review other factors they determine are relevant to the best interests of the child.
Meet With a Child Custody Attorney in New York
An experienced family law attorney can discuss how the factors the Courts consider apply to the unique circumstances in your case, and discuss the possible outcomes with you, while helping to create the best strategy to strengthen your position during your custody case. Call The Colwell Law Group now for a complimentary consultation.