Child Custody FAQ’s

Child Custody FAQs


What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

Legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to make significant decisions affecting the child’s welfare, including education, health, and religion. Physical custody involves with whom the child lives and the logistical arrangements for the child’s care.

 Can legal custody be joint or solely awarded to one parent?

Yes, legal custody can be joint, where both parents share decision-making responsibilities or sole, where one parent has exclusive rights to make decisions or the child primarily resides with them.

 Can physical custody be joint or more liberally awarded to one parent?

Yes, physical custody can be joint, with each parent having equal time with the child, or one parent can be the “primary” custodian, having greater than 50% of the time with the child.

 How do courts determine child custody in New York?

Courts prioritize the child’s best interests, considering factors such as each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment, the child’s needs, the child’s relationship with each parent, and the parents’ ability to cooperate with each other.

 What is a parenting plan, and why is it important?

A parenting plan outlines the agreement between parents regarding their responsibilities and schedules for raising their child post-separation. It helps reduce conflicts and provides a clear structure for the child’s care.

 Can a parent modify a custody order?

Yes, a parent can request a modification of a custody order if there has been a significant change in circumstances that affects the child’s best interests. Both parents must be notified and have the opportunity to be heard in court.

 What role do a child’s preferences play in custody decisions?

Depending on the child’s age and maturity, courts may consider the child’s preferences. Older and more mature children’s preferences usually carry more weight.

 How does relocation affect child custody?

Relocation can significantly impact custody arrangements. The custodial parent must typically obtain permission from the other parent or the court before relocating if the move would affect the current custody and visitation schedule.

 What is “parental alienation,” and how could it affect custody?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent negatively influences the child against the other parent, which can impact custody decisions. Courts may view it as harmful to the child’s emotional wellbeing.

How does joint custody work in practice?

In joint custody, both parents share responsibilities and time with the child. The specifics, like schedules and decision-making, are detailed in the parenting plan to ensure both parents participate in the child’s life effectively.

 What should parents do if they cannot agree on custody?

If parents cannot reach an agreement, they may need to undergo mediation or, ultimately, litigation, where a court will decide legal and physical based on the child’s best interests.

 What happens during a child custody hearing?

During a child custody hearing, both parents present evidence and arguments regarding their preferred custody arrangements. The court may also consider reports from neutral third parties such as social workers or psychologists.

 Are grandparents entitled to visitation rights?

Yes, in many jurisdictions, grandparents can petition for visitation rights, especially if they have had a significant relationship with the child and the visitation is in the child’s best interest.

 Can custody decisions be appealed?

Yes, custody decisions can be appealed if one parent believes there was a legal error in how the court made its decision. The appeal must be filed within a specific timeframe after the order.

 What is supervised visitation, and when is it used?

Supervised visitation is when a parent can only visit their child in the presence of another approved adult or professional supervisor. This is used in situations where there are concerns about the child’s safety or well-being when alone in the care of that parent.

 How does domestic violence affect custody decisions?

Courts take allegations of domestic violence seriously. If proven, they can significantly impact custody and visitation rights, potentially leading to supervised visitation or limited parental rights for the offending parent.

 What is the role of a child’s attorney?

A child’s attorney represents the child’s interests in custody proceedings. They inform the court of the child’s preferences and concerns, provided the child is old enough and mature enough to express them. If not, child’s attorney may provide an independent assessment to the court of what arrangements would be in the child’s best interests.

 How do mental health or substance abuse issues affect custody?

Mental health and substance abuse issues are considered by the court, particularly in how they impact the parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment. This can affect both legal and physical custody decisions.

 Can a custody order from another state be enforced in New York?

Yes, under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), custody orders from other states can be enforced in New York, provided certain criteria are met.

 What are emergency custody orders?

Emergency custody orders are issued when a child is in immediate danger. They temporarily alter custody arrangements until a full hearing can be conducted to assess the child’s safety.

 How do cultural or religious considerations impact custody decisions?

Cultural and religious considerations may be factored into custody decisions to respect the child’s upbringing and heritage. However, the primary consideration remains the child’s best interests.

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