It is unfortunate when a New York couple decides they can no longer continue in their marriage and chooses to divorce. There are many concerns in these cases, but the most emotional, time consuming and worrisome is often child custody. This is usually tied to visitation as the parent who does not receive custody will want to see the child as much as possible. When dealing with these complex cases, it is important to understand the process. While it is preferable for the sides to negotiate amicably and come to an agreement on their own, that is not always possible. If a custody and visitation hearing must be held, those involved should be shielded from the start and have a firm understanding of the law.
The hearing and a child’s best interests
The child’s best interests take precedence in the child custody determination, but that will directly tie in with how well-equipped the parents are to take on the responsibility to single parenting at certain times and collaboration at other times. Parents who agree on child custody without court intervention will do so “on consent.” This means that there will not be a hearing. With a hearing, there are critical facts to remember.
The judge will focus on the child and how the decision will suit his or her interests. Among the considerations with best interests are which parent was the primary caregiver and bonded with the child; how the parents fare at overseeing and nurturing the child; if there are any mental or physical issues with the parents; what the work schedules are and how it impacts the care they provide; the child’s desires if he or she is of age to maturely express it; and the level of cooperation with the other parent.
Witnesses can be called for the judge to get a better gauge on how the child will benefit from living with one parent or the other and what the visitation agreement should look like. There might be a professional in assessing these situations like a social worker, a psychologist or a case worker to dive deeply into the family situation and come to an unvarnished view as to what will best suit the child. Q guardian ad litem who represents the child’s interests might be involved. Of course, legal professionals representing each side will play a role.
Knowing what to expect may require professional help
Not all child custody cases are acrimonious, but given the stakes, it is important to be fully prepared for the worst even in relatively cordial divorces. When trying to come to an agreement on child custody and preparing to have a hearing before a judge, being protected is a wise step no matter the situation. Experience, compassion and toughness when necessary are all aspects of quality representation in a child custody case. When the case moves forward, it is a reasonable step to seek advice and guidance from the beginning.