Child Custody and Parenting Time

The wellbeing of your child is one of the most important considerations in a divorce.

For this reason, determining child custody and a parenting time schedule can be the most challenging aspects of the divorce process. And if there is a challenge to modify the custody agreement post-judgment, this can also be extremely stressful.

In New York State, child custody is comprised of two parts: legal custody and residential (physical) custody.

  • Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions about major issues affecting the child including education, medical and healthcare, therapeutic issues, and religion.
  • Residential custody determines where the child will physically live, and the access schedule for the non-custodial parent.

Legal custody in New York State can be further broken down into sole custody and joint legal custody:

  • Sole custody: One parent can make major life decisions. Sometimes consultation is required and other times, the parent holding legal custody must inform the parent about the decision.
  • Joint custody: Both parents contribute to major life decisions and jointly make such decisions; the parent with whom the child is residing is generally responsible for day-to-day decisions.

In determining legal custody in a divorce case, the court will base their decision on the best interests of the child.

Some of the factors considered are:

  • Which adult has been the primary caregiver;
  • Work schedules;
  • Parenting skills;
  • Mental and physical health;
  • If old enough, the child’s preference;
  • Any history of drug or alcohol abuse;
  • Any history of domestic violence or physical abuse; and
  • Which parent is most likely to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent. This last factor may actually be the most important determining factor.

Custody challenges should be handled by a skilled and empathetic family law attorney. If you are faced with losing custody or giving up significant time with your children, you need someone who is well-versed in the complexities of the law who you trust to strongly advocate for your position as to what is in your child’s best interest.

Parenting Time Schedules

When a child is under 18 years of age, if you and the other parent cannot agree, the State of New York will determine parenting time for non-custodial parents, including the actual schedule.

This can also include grandparent visitation.

Every parenting schedule should be unique to the child’s and the parents’ needs. Under certain circumstances, supervised or therapeutic visits may be appropriate to protect the emotional and/or physical well-being of the children.

You may need to enforce a custody agreement or order if the other parent refuses to comply. Additionally, you may need to modify an agreement or order if there is a substantial change in circumstances.

As your family law attorney, Lisa Zeiderman can help you negotiate a fair and comprehensive settlement agreement that secures the best result for you and your children, and also saves time and money that would otherwise have been spent in litigation.