White Plains Attorney Explains Child Custody Laws

Westchester County firm helps develop parenting plans

New York courts have the power to impose child custody and visitation plans on divorcing parents, but generally encourage parents to cooperate and come up with a plan of their own design. Lauren B. Abramson, Esq. knows the New York custody laws and can help you develop a plan that will pass muster with the court and at the same time address such issues as the schedule of when the child will be in the care of each parent and each parent’s participation in the child’s education, healthcare and upbringing.

How do I get a court order on custody?

A New York court can issue orders concerning the custody of any child who resides in New York or recently has lived in the state for six months or longer. To ask the court for a custody order, your lawyer should file a petition with the Family Court or a complaint with the Supreme Court in your county.

Who can get a child custody order?

For the purposes of child custody, New York law treats all parents the same — whether they are married or unmarried, adoptive or biological, same sex or opposite sex. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, a child’s parent has a much better chance of winning custody than a non-parent. However in rare cases, the courts do award custody to a non-parent, including:

  • The child’s grandparent
  • The child’s stepparent
  • The child’s sibling
  • Another relative of the child
  • The same-sex partner of one of the child’s parents

Does mom stand a better chance than dad of getting custody?

New York courts do not consider gender in making custody decisions. The courts do however, favor whichever parent has been the child’s primary caretaker. The primary caretaker is the parent who usually takes care of the following tasks:

  • Gets the child ready for school
  • Transports the child to and from school
  • Helps the child with homework
  • Arranges the child’s extracurricular activities
  • Feeds the child
  • Takes the child shopping for clothes, school supplies and other necessities
  • Arranges the child’s medical appointments
  • Cares for the child during illnesses
  • Takes the child to church, synagogue, mosque or other religious institution

How do I show that my spouse isn’t fit to have custody?

If the parent who is not the child’s primary caretaker wants custody, that parent should work with a lawyer to assemble evidence that the primary caretaker has serious problems that make him or her unfit. Those problems might include:

  • Substance abuse
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Debilitating physical or mental illness
  • Domestic violence against the other parent

The attorney and staff at the law offices of Lauren B. Abramson fight hard to ensure that your child’s interests are protected.

What are the most common custody arrangements?

Any permutation or combination of custody options is possible, but New York courts tend to order these three types of custody arrangements most often:

  • Joint legal custody — In this situation, the parents share responsibility for making important decisions about the child. For joint legal custody to work, the parents must be able to communicate and cooperate with each other. A court will be disinclined to order joint legal custody to parents who strongly disagree about how the child should be raised. The court will be especially reluctant to award joint legal custody in families with a history of domestic violence.
  • Sole legal custody — This is when one parent gets to make all the important decisions about the child, including where the child lives, goes to school, gets medical care and practices religion. A parent with sole legal custody is called the custodial parent. A court often awards sole legal custody when the noncustodial parent has a history of domestic violence or child abuse.
  • Primary physical custody — Also known as residential custody, this refers to the parent with whom the child usually lives. A parent with primary physical custody may or may not also have sole legal custody. A typical arrangement is for the parents to have joint legal custody but one parent to have residential custody. In that situation, the parent without residential custody is often awarded liberal visitation rights, including overnights on weekends and school holidays.

Contact us for answers to your questions about child custody laws

With more than 25 years’ experience, Lauren B. Abramson, Esq. stands ready to answer your questions about family law in New York. Our office is across from Saxon Woods Park, between the Hutchinson River Parkway and the New England Thruway. We offer after-hours appointments, and parking is free. Call 914-908-6829 or contact us online to schedule a meeting.