How Does Domestic Violence Affect My Child Custody Arrangement in New York?

Family courts treat domestic violence claims seriously. A history of domestic violence involving parents, children or other relatives can greatly influence the outcome of a custody dispute.

According to New York laws, domestic violence is defined as any physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically or economically abusive behavior among two or more people in an intimate relationship. It’s common to assume that domestic violence can only occur between family members. However, the term “intimate relationship” actually encompasses all of the following:

  • Those related by blood or marriage
  • Those married or formerly married
  • Those currently or formerly in a dating relationship
  • Parents and their biological or adopted children
  • Cohabitants or former cohabitants who are related by neither blood nor marriage (partners, roommates)
  • Two people with one or more children in common, even if they never married and never lived together

Custody is decided based on what is in the best interests of the child. Clearly, safety is of the utmost importance when determining best interests, and the court will not grant custody to a parent or guardian believed to pose a risk to child’s health or well-being. But there is also a general belief that children benefit most from having healthy relationships with both parents, if possible, and courts generally favor joint custody arrangements. In fact, there is current pending legislation in the New York State Senate that would establish a legal presumption that shared or joint custody is in a child’s best interests.

Additional factors that affect a child’s best interests include the following:

  • Health of the child and parents
  • Ability of each parent to care and provide for the child
  • Willingness of each parent to encourage the child to maintain a relationship with the other parent
  • Relationships the child has with siblings and other family members
  • The child’s wishes, if he or she is of appropriate age and maturity level

Clearly, child custody is a complicated issue, especially when domestic violence is a factor. Consult a family law attorney in Westchester County for guidance and support.

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