New York courts determine child custody according to what they consider to be in the best interests of the child. There is no automatic presumption in favor of either parent. Of course, what constitutes a child's "best interests" can be highly subjective and requires analysis based on each family's unique situation. In many cases, the court will appoint an attorney to advocate for the child. Though each case differs, there are some common factors that the court considers in determining custody:
- Current custodial parent - Depending on a child's age and the distance between the parents' residences, there can be a natural advantage for the parent taking care of the child at the time of the hearing to have physical custody. Avoiding disruption of normal home and school habits might be heavily weighed.
- Living conditions - Safety is the paramount concern, so if one parent's home or neighborhood can be considered unsafe, judges are more likely to have the child reside with the other parent. Courts also examine who has been responsible for the child's day-to-day care to lessen the likelihood that a custodial parent will be "learning on the job."
- Parents' medical and personal history - Evidence of substance abuse or incidents of domestic violence are clear strikes against obtaining custody. The judge might also investigate whether a parent who suffers from health problems might not be able to supervise effectively.
- Child's wishes - As children get older, their wishes are increasingly considered in custody determinations, but not automatically granted.
Even if physical custody is granted to one parent, New York courts grant visitation to the noncustodial parent except in situations where doing so might put the child at risk. At the firm of Goldberg Sager & Associates, Attorneys at Law, our lawyers assist divorcing spouses with child custody and visitation matters. To schedule a consultation with an experienced Brooklyn matrimonial attorney, call 347.497.3245 or contact us online.