Child custody is often the most contested part of a Fulton County divorce case. While every parent strives to do what is right for their children, it is not always possible to reach a voluntary custody arrangement that satisfies all parties. At The Colwell Law Group, LLC, we understand how difficult these issues can be. That is why our Fulton County child custody lawyers will help you through this difficult time. We can explain your options under New York law and assist you in obtaining the best outcome for you and your family.
Determining Your Child’s “Best Interests”
The first thing to understand about child custody is that the law does not inherently favor the father or the mother. Under Section 240 of the New York Domestic Relations Law, the guiding standard for judges in Fulton County in custody cases is “the best interests of the child.” What actually constitutes your child’s “best interests” will vary depending on the facts and circumstances, but here are a few questions the judge will need to answer:
- Who has been the child’s primary caretaker? That is to say, who is more involved in your child’s day-to-day activities, such as preparing their meals, taking them to school, arranging for after-school care, et cetera?
- Does the parent seeking custody have a full-time job?
- Is either parent abusing drugs or alcohol?
- Has either parent committed an act of domestic violence, or abused or neglected the child (or another family member) in any way?
- Does either parent suffer from a physical or mental illness that would affect their ability to care for the child?
- Depending on the child’s age and maturity, who would he or she prefer to live with?
Child custody is not an all-or-nothing deal. A Fulton County judge has the discretion to award either sole or joint legal custody of a child. With joint custody, one parent may still have physical or residential custody, i.e. the child lives with that parent most of the time. But the child will also get to live with other parent during prearranged times, such as during weekends or school holidays.
Regardless of the actual living arrangements, joint legal custody does mean the parents share decision-making authority over certain critical issues, such as where the child will attend school or receive medical care. If the judge decides joint custody is not in the child’s best interests and awards sole custody to one parent, then the custodial parent can make these decisions unilaterally. However, some decision may still require consent from the judge, such as relocating the child outside of New York State.
Our Fulton County Child Custody Lawyers Can Help Your Family
Ideally, both parents can set aside their personal differences and come to a custody agreement that benefits their child. At The Colwell Law Group, LLC, we can help you negotiate a parenting plan to achieve that result. But if a voluntary agreement is not possible for any reason, we are also prepared to represent your interests in court. If you are involved in a child custody dispute–or are about to be in one–call us right away at 518-512-0544 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.