Nassau County Child Custody Attorney
Helping Clients Throughout Long Island and New York Arrive at Solutions
Whether married or not, separation can be a stressful and emotional time for parents and their children. We recognize that protecting the parent-child relationship will often be the most pressing concern for divorcing or separating parents.
Legal Custody in New York
Legal custody refers to the right to make what is often termed “major decisions” about your child for matters such as medical care, education, and religion.
The term “joint legal custody” refers to decision-making — the parties can have equal authority to make decisions about these types of issues.
While the parents can agree to joint legal custody and joint decision-making, a New York court may be less likely to impose this in a litigated matter upon parents who cannot work together or communicate.
However, parents and courts recognize that each parent has the right to participate in the process. Even if one parent has decision-making authority, that parent will usually be required to consult with the other parent in a meaningful manner before making the decision.
“Zones” or “spheres” of influence are a way of dividing the decision-making authority. In cases where the parties are not completely at odds with each other but often disagree, they can stipulate, or courts can order, that each party have an area of decision-making. This allows each parent to remain fully involved with the child(ren), and each can use their knowledge and experience to benefit each child. For example, one parent may have final decision-making as to medical issues, and the other as to educational issues.
Our New York family lawyers understand the importance of limiting the stress of the process on your children, which means working toward amicable custody orders that reduce conflict and confusion.
At What Age Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With in NY?
In New York, there is no specific age when a child can decide who they want to live with. The court has the final say until the child turns 18. The court will consider a child's preferences when determining custody. However, the court isn't bound by a child's wishes. The older the child, the more seriously the court will take their wishes.
Is NY a 50/50 Custody State?
No, New York is not a 50/50 custody state. New York state law does not establish a detailed way for the courts to split parenting time. Instead, a judge has to look at numerous facts about your family to determine what arrangements would be best for the child. 50/50 custody arrangements are possible in New York, and the courts generally prefer to have both parents involved in the child's life.
However, it is common for one parent to have "primary physical" custody and for the parents to share "joint legal."
Factors in Child Custody Cases
Although our child custody lawyers recognize the advantages of a mutually agreeable custody agreement, some cases require litigation because of a parent’s lack of cooperation or the existence of complicated issues, such as allegations of abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse.
When the parties cannot reach an agreement, the judge will craft custody orders based on the “best interest of the child” and will consider many factors, including:
- Primary caretaker: The judge often will favor the parent who was the primary caregiver prior to the separation of the parties.
- Maintaining the status quo: Because children face significant transitions during a divorce, the judge will try to promote stability. If a parent voluntarily moves out of the family home, a parent remaining with the child(ren) may have an advantage.
- Substance abuse: If either parent has an issue with alcohol or drug misuse, this factor will favor in granting custody to the other parent.
- Domestic violence: If a parent is shown to have engaged in acts of domestic violence against the other parent, the offending parent will be less likely to be granted custody.
- Keeping siblings together: The court will try to keep siblings in the same household when possible.
- Court’s observation of the parents: If one party shows a greater willingness to promote a positive relationship between the other parent and their children, the judge will consider this behavior.
- Conditions in the home: The judge will consider issues that affect the child’s health and safety within each home.
- Parental finances: While the court will consider financial obstacles like the inability of a parent to afford a place to live, the courts do not award custody based on the relative affluence of one parent compared to the other.
- Physical/mental health of the parents: If a parent has an untreated mental illness or suffers from a severe physical disability or illness, their health might be a factor causing a court to favor the other party.
- Past abuse or neglect: If a parent has a history of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or interference with visitation, this history will weigh against the perpetrating parent.
- Educational opportunity: The court will consider the ability of each parent to offer superior educational opportunities.
- Childcare arrangements: If both parents work, the court might favor the party with superior childcare arrangements.
- Preference of the child: The court will consider a child’s preferences based on the child’s age, but the weight given to any preference will depend on whether the child has a sound justification.
The judge must consider evidence involving the totality of these factors and any other relevant information when crafting child custody orders. The subjective nature of these evaluations makes it essential to gather and present a compelling case for your position based on these factors.
You may have heard the terms “law guardian” or “attorney for the child.” In most contested custody cases, the court will appoint a family law attorney to represent the child(ren). The child(ren) will have a voice in the process.
You may have also heard the term “forensic expert.” In many contested custody cases, the court will appoint a neutral mental health expert to evaluate various issues related to custody and to render a report to the court to assist in reaching a final determination.
Understanding Visitation Rights in New York
When it comes to child custody cases, visitation rights are a crucial aspect to consider. Whether you are seeking visitation rights as a non-custodial parent or are concerned about the visitation schedule for your child, it's important to understand the laws and regulations in New York.
Our experienced Nassau County child custody attorneys at Winter & Grossman, PLLC can provide guidance and representation in matters related to visitation rights, including:
- Establishing a visitation schedule
- Modifying visitation arrangements
- Enforcing visitation orders
- Supervised visitation
It's essential to ensure that your child has meaningful and consistent access to both parents, and our legal team is dedicated to helping you navigate the complexities of visitation rights in New York.
While pursuing the best outcome for our clients and their children, we try to guide our clients past potential roadblocks, like intense negative emotions, that work to a client’s detriment. This may include disparaging comments, alienating behavior, or a lack of cooperation.
We work with each client to help them understand the factors a court will consider when evaluating custody issues.
Our attorneys have successfully negotiated many effective custody agreements. We are also prepared to litigate challenging cases when necessary.
Our lawyers also understand the importance of mitigating the stress of the process on your children, which means working toward amicable custody orders that lessen conflict and confusion.
Misunderstandings that arise from unclear custody orders often result in future modification and enforcement hearings.
Even when we cannot resolve all the custody issues through negotiation, our approach allows us to narrow the litigated issues to reduce the cost, anxiety, and conflicts associated with your matter.
Separating parents must resolve issues related to legal custody, physical or residential custody, and access.
Mr. Grossman brings more than twenty (20) years of experience as a matrimonial and family law attorney to his mediation practice, having completed both the basic mediation training and the advanced mediation training for matrimonial matters. He added this service to provide clients with an alternative to litigation with the hope that he can help parties resolve their differences more efficiently and as amicably as possible.
“The best! Very professional. Fantastic staff, incredible attention to detail.”