When marriages fail, one of the biggest concern is how the custody of minor children will be arranged. Often, this requires a lengthy hearing in family court and, unless the parents can come to their own agreement, a judge will likely make the final determination. If a child custody battle seems likely for you, it may be helpful to understand how Brooklyn courts determine the custody of minor children.
Child Custody is a Complex Matter
Before you can understand how the courts determine which child custody arrangement is best in each case, it’s important to understand that there are two primary aspects to custody: physical custody and legal custody. Just because one parent is granted physical custody, that doesn’t mean he or she will also have legal custody. A closer look at these two types of custody can help you understand the differences.
Physical custody concerns the actual living arrangements for the minor children. Physical custody may solely be granted to one parent or parents may share partial custody. In partial physical custody, each parent gets a set number of days per week during which the child will live with them. In most cases, weekends, holidays, and vacations are divided up equally between the parents. For instance, each parent may have custody of the child two weekends per month in addition to weekday custody arrangements.
If one parent is granted sole custody, this doesn’t mean the noncustodial parent will not be permitted to see the child. While the main goal of the court is to act in the best interests of the children, they try to keep families as close as possible. Therefore, a noncustodial parent may be granted supervised or unsupervised visitation privileges. This is an opportunity for the children to spend a few hours per week with their noncustodial parent.
Legal custody concerns the decisions pertaining to the child’s upbringing. This can include a multitude of factors, including the child’s education, medical care, religious upbringing, and special needs. Whenever possible Brooklyn family courts try to divide legal custody equally between the parents, but this depends on the ability of the parents to communicate and compromise. Otherwise, the decision-making may be left up to one parent. The custodial parent is likely to be granted legal custody, but this isn’t always the case.
How is Child Custody Determined?
Child custody isn’t always left up to a judge in the Brooklyn family court system. When a divorcing husband and wife is able to compromise and meet civilly, mediation is often the best way to determine child custody. This shows that they can arrive at decisions together without letting their past conflicts interfere. This is the best situation for minor children, because they’re already upset that the family dynamic is changing.
Unfortunately, not all couples can communicate well after a split and custody must be left in the hands of the Brooklyn family court system. In this type of situation, each parent will have to show why he or she should be granted custody and the parties often petition the court for sole custody. This creates an adversarial situation, forcing the judge to separate the facts from emotional mud-slinging.
In making a decision, the judge will look for the living conditions provided by each parent. This may include the quality of the home, the home environment in regard to each parent’s activities, and the size of the home. The judge will also look at the temperament of each parent to ensure the child is placed in a safe and loving environment. It’s not uncommon for the judge to ask the child’s opinion about where he or she would like to live. The feelings shared by the children heavily influence the judge’s decision in many cases.
If one parent has a history of domestic violence, substance abuse problems, or engages in risky behaviors, the courts may determine he or she poses too great a risk to the child’s safety. In these instances, that parent may only be granted visitation rights and visits may be supervised. This allows the parent to stay in the child’s life, while he or she goes through counseling or gets other kinds of help for the risky behaviors. Sometimes, a parent may petition the court to reconsider partial custody, if he or she has successfully completed counseling.
The custody of your children is a serious matter to confront, so it’s not something you should attempt on your own. Your former spouse will likely have hired an attorney to represent them. If you go to family court without an attorney of your own, you’ll be starting the hearing at a significant disadvantage. Hiring a Brooklyn family lawyer will ensure that you’ll receive the best possible outcome in your child custody hearing.