When children are involved in a divorce, the divorce judgment must resolve several key issues regarding child custody. Like all decisions in divorce, such as the division of property and assets, decisions surrounding child custody may be made either through mediation or by a family court judge.
Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody
Two types of legal custody may be ordered for a child. In a sole custody arrangement, only one parent is granted the authority to make decisions about the child’s health, education, and general upbringing. In a joint custody arrangement, both parents share decision-making responsibilities and must come to an agreement when determining what is in the best interests of their child.
Physical Custody and Visitation
Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child lives. Family courts in New York begin with the presumption that in the majority of cases, it is in a child’s best interest to maintain contact with both parents. Therefore, most physical custody orders will also include a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent. In some cases, divorcing parents may decide to share equal custody in an arrangement where the child spends the same amount of time with each parent.
Over one quarter (27%) of children in the United States have a parent who lives outside the home. This amounts to approximately 22.4 million children. Visitation arrangements vary widely among fathers who do not live with their children. Only 22% of noncustodial fathers see their children more than once a week. A slightly larger subset of noncustodial fathers (29%) see children one to four times a month. For 21% of noncustodial fathers, visits occur a few times a year. Finally, 27% of noncustodial fathers don’t visit their children at all.
Who Can Ask for Custody of a Child?
The legal father and mother both have an equal right to request custody. In certain extraordinary circumstances where the legal parents are deemed unfit or unable to care for the child, relatives or friends of the child may request custody.
Factors Courts Consider When Determining Child Custody
Although courts are no longer biased in favor of the mother obtaining custody, many more mothers than fathers win primary custody of their children in divorces. Four out of every five custodial parents are mothers, and fathers make up only one in five custodial parents. However, the number of custodial fathers has been steadily increasing. Why is this? Family courts review a number of factors when determining which parent is best suited for primary custody, including:
Who Was the Primary Caregiver in the Marriage?
This standard aims to discern which parent has been responsible for attending to the children’s daily needs, such as feeding, dressing, and bathing them, taking them to school and doctor appointments, and putting them to bed.
Which Parent Has a Closer Emotional Bond with the Child?
Most young children have a closer bond with their mother than their father, due in large part to continuing disparities between parents in time spent engaging in the daily tasks of the child’s upbringing. Although fathers are more involved in childcare than ever before, mothers still spend, on average, twice as much time caring for their kids.
Get Help from an Experienced Long Island Child Custody Attorney
We understand that when it comes to your kids, there is a lot at stake. If there is any doubt about who will take care of the children after the divorce, hiring an experienced child custody and visitation attorney to represent you will give you the best chances of a positive outcome.
For a personalized evaluation of your situation, contact us or call (631) 928-8000 to schedule a complimentary consultation with the experienced family law attorneys at the offices of Winkler Kurtz, LLP. With over 30 years of experience practicing family law in Suffolk County, we can help you understand your options and put together your strongest possible custody case. We look forward to your call.