Even if you’ve lived in New York City all your life, there are a few child custody laws that you might not know about. These laws are important to keep in mind if you have a child with someone and you end the relationship or you decide to separate during the marriage. These laws also come into play if you file for a divorce. A judge can usually make a ruling about child custody at any family court hearing even before your divorce is finalized. At times, the father might have to take a test to determine paternity if there is a question as to whether the person is the father of the child or not. Keep in mind that child custody usually doesn’t have any bearing on child support or visitation arrangements.
In order for a judge to make a decision about child custody, the child needs to have resided in the state for at least six months. A child younger than six months must have been born in the state before the court hearing. Although many custody hearings end with the mother being granted custody and the father visitation or joint custody between the two parents, this isn’t the case in New York. Each parent has an equal right to custody of the child. This is when it’s important to seek the assistance of an attorney who can gather all of the information that you want to deliver to the court to try to gain custody. When an order hasn’t been established, then the child can stay with either parent until the hearing unless there has been a case established to have the child removed from the home. When you go to the child custody hearing, the judge will take into consideration the child’s best interests before making a final decision.
It is the right of both parents to file for custody of the child. If both parents can provide a suitable home and living environment for the child, then a joint custody arrangement will usually be ordered. If there is a divorce hearing already taking place, then you would need to file for child custody in Supreme Court as you can only have one case open at a time in the state.
The judge will usually look to the primary caregiver of the child when making a decision about custody. While this is usually the mother, especially for infants and toddlers, there are times when the father is the primary caregiver because the mother works more hours or is unable to provide the same kind of living situation that the father can provide. The court will look at the parent who has physical custody of the child when making a final decision about custody. If the child doesn’t seem to be happy living with the parent or the living environment is questionable, then joint custody could be arranged or an alternative so that the other parent can keep the child until a final decision is made.
Older children are often able to voice their opinion of where they want to live and who they want to live with, but the court doesn’t have to base a final decision on these opinions. The judge will try to uphold the wishes of the child while ensuring that the child is safe and is in a home where the child can thrive. If you are unable to communicate with the other parent, then the judge could give custody to one of you and create a visitation arrangement so that the other parent can see the child. However, if you can communicate in a healthy manner with the other parent, then there is usually no reason as to why joint custody wouldn’t be an option.
The judge can open the case in the future if there are changes in the living situation of the child or if there are changes with the parent who has primary custody. Keep in mind that if you want to move to another city or state, then you usually need to approach the court and that the other parent has every right to file a petition to gain custody of the child or to prevent you from moving with the child. Once an order is established and a parent goes against that order by not letting the other parent have the child, then it can be considered kidnapping in the state