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What is in the best interests of the child in a divorce?

New Yorkers going through divorce can be overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions that arise during the uncertainty that accompanies this upheaval to their lives. There may be several forces motivating the decision to end the marriage, but sometimes these reasons do not serve the best interests of everyone involved.

Although remaining in a marriage where the parents do not get along is stressful and painful to the children, getting a divorce can be traumatizing to them. Decisions about the family home, who will have custody, or the visitation schedule, will have a profound effect on a child’s sense of stability, well-being and ability to cope.

Residents of White Plains and surrounding areas can find out more about workable solutions that will allow them to exercise their rights as parents while also focusing on the emotional needs of their children.

What kinds of custody are there?

In New York, there is both legal and physical custody, and in a litigated proceeding the court will decide how the child will receive care, how they are brought up and who will have the permission to oversee these responsibilities. Legal and physical can also be sole or joint, depending on the court order:

  • Legal custody refers to the parental right to make decisions about the child’s medical care, education, or religious upbringing. If the court orders joint legal custody, both parents will share these rights.
  • Physical custody refers to physical care of the child, such as feeding and clothing them, providing an adequate home environment, as well as supervision. A parent has sole physical custody if the child lives with them more than 50% of the time.

Where there is no court order, both parents have equal physical and legal custody rights of the child.

How does the judge decide on custody matters?

Each state has a standard of what is in the best interests of the child, which offers not only uniformity in child custody cases but also regulation of the illegal actions of non-custodial parents who take children across state lines. In New York, a judge will look at many factors when deciding who will have legal or physical custody, including:

  • Each parent’s lifestyle and capacity to take care of the child’s physical and medical needs.
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health, as well as their willingness to foster a relationship of the child with the other parent.
  • The child’s age, physical and mental condition, and preference if they are 12 or older.
  • History of domestic violence in the home.

Depending on how they handle the divorce, if the parents can keep up good communication, especially with children who are old enough to understand, everyone will be able to adjust to a new normal as everyone moves forward past divorce.