Throughout the state of New York, child custody proceedings are handled by the Family Court system. This branch of the state’s judicial system has a number of idiosyncrasies that make it a challenging and singular area of the law. If you find yourself involved in a child custody dispute, the single best thing that you can do to ensure that you have the best possible chances of obtaining a satisfactory outcome is to hire a dedicated lawyer who specializes in child custody proceedings.
In New York, the Family Court system is heavily informed by case law. While there do exist statutory laws, such as the Domestic Relations Laws, that govern the legal subject matter of the state’s Family Courts, the vast majority of the controlling law in this area has been established through precedential rulings and judicial review. This means that the complex web of case law that guides every decision of the Family Court must be extremely well understood by any lawyer who is going to represent you in a child custody case. Out lawyers are specialists in this area, with the expertise, skills and winning track record that lets you know your case is in the best of hands.
The two types of custody
In Queens, as in the rest of the state, there are two broad categories of custody that can be awarded by the judge overseeing your case. The first is termed physical custody. This is the kind of custody that is awarded to the parent at whose home the child primarily resides. Although it is possible to have joint physical custody, the vast majority of cases appearing before the Family Courts involve designating and custodial and non-custodial parent. This is simply due to the fact that the vast majority of divorce cases result in the former occupants of the the marital domicile physically separating, a condition that would preclude the awarding of joint physical custody.
The second form of custody is known as legal custody. This refers to the custodial parents having the right to participate in all decisions that would materially affect the child’s well being. It also involves the ability of custodial parents to veto, without qualification, any decision that may run against the best interests of the child.
In New York, it is not uncommon for joint legal custody to be awarded to both parents in the case of separation. However, if your case has already appeared before the Family Courts or is slated to be adjudicated there, the chances that joint legal custody will be granted are relatively slim. This is because, by the nature of child custody disputes themselves, it has been demonstrated that there is a certain degree of animosity and even hostility between the parties to the case. Most judges will interpret this as a risk for deadlock occurring with regards to most decisions of import in the child’s life. Because both parents can created a situation of absolute deadlock where joint custody has been awarded, each situation that results in an impasse requires the intervention of the Family Courts. For this reason, Family Court judges are reluctant to grant joint custody in cases where there has been demonstrated contention between the parties.
As a result, your goal will likely be to convince the court to grant you sole legal custody. How difficult this will be is a function of many different things. But if you are the physically non-custodial parent, you will have the deck stacked against you.
In such a case, it is imperative that you hire a competent and experienced lawyer to help you vie for sole custodianship.