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FAQ Child Custody

Child Custody FAQ

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on the custodial arrangement for your child, then custody can be determined through Family Court or as part of a divorce action. The court will make its custody decision by determining what specific terms are in the best interests of the child. The court will examine how each parent meets the child’s mental, emotional, psychological, medical, educational, and nutritional needs. Each case is decided based on its own unique set of facts and circumstances. Factors taken into consideration by the court include the following: the amount of time each parent spends with the child; attendance at parent-teacher conferences and doctor appointments; homework completion; bedtime routine; bathing; feeding;  meal preparation; and emotional closeness. In a majority of custody cases, there will be some type of shared decision making and physical custody.

You can modify a custody order in New York if you can establish that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last custody order was made. What is considered substantial is up to the court to decide. If you can show sufficient evidence of a substantial change in circumstances, then the court will review the new situation and make a modified custody order, applying the same standard as before: the best interests of the child.

Domestic violence is a factor that a judge can take into consideration in deciding a custody matter. If a child is harmed physically, mentally or psychologically by domestic violence, the offender could have extremely limited contact with the child going forward. Depending on the facts and circumstances, a court may order evaluations for mental health or substance abuse issues.  Information obtained in this process and the opinions of service providers may impact the custodial arrangements.  An order of protection will contain terms limiting behavior and contact between the parties and children. An order of protection may set forth a schedule of visitation, if necessary.

A judicial finding of spousal abuse has no impact on the terms of a support judgment or order.  Legally, they are two separate issues (there is an exception for very extreme cases). However, these two issues are very much intertwined in the lives of people who experience abuse. It is common in cases where spousal abuse has occurred, that support can be very difficult to enforce and collect.  It is legally recognized that an intentional failure to provide support is a form of abuse.

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