What factors do New York judges consider when making child custody decisions?

Child custody is a particularly important issue that has to be addressed in divorce cases involving children. In a best case scenario, a divorcing couple will be amicable enough toward one another that they are able to work through their differences and reach a mutually acceptable parenting time arrangement in which both parties continue to play an equal or significant role in making decisions regarding the upbringing of their mutual children.

When parties are unable to work together and have disagreements about parenting time, a court must step in and make the best decision under the circumstances. This takes the decision out of the parents’ hands, which can be a challenge them. How exactly do New York family courts make decisions in child custody cases, though? 

As in other states, New York law specifies that child custody decisions are to be made according to the best interests of the child. Judges are supposed to consider all the circumstances of the case, including the circumstances of each party, and especially the best interests of the child. Judges have significant discretion in making child custody decisions, but the primary concern is always going to be to select a custody and parenting time arrangement that maintains the child’s health, safety and welfare as a central concern.

Courts will consider, for example factors like: the role each parent has played in caring for the child in the past; the strengths and weaknesses each parent has in meeting the child’s needs; the mental and physical fitness of the parent; the child’s own mental, emotion and physical needs; the child’s relationships with siblings; the age and expressed wishes of the child; the ability of the each parent to cooperate in sharing parental responsibility for the child; and whether there is a history of domestic violence.

For parents, having a strong advocate in child custody proceedings is important to help ensure that the parent has the best possible representation and is best positioned for an outcome that allows them to maintain a significant place in their child’s life after divorce. 

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