Long Island Child Custody Attorneys
Helping Clients Fight for Child Custody in New York
Child custody issues tend to be the most sensitive and complex of all divorce and family law matters. The custody of a child — both physical and legal, as explained below — can be addressed by the court during divorce proceedings or between separated or unmarried parents. It is the court’s primary objective to consider the best interests of the child, not the personal desires of each of the parents.
Types of Custody in New York
In New York, there are two aspects of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody can be arranged in a number of ways, including but not limited to the following:
- Sole or “Primary” Physical Custody – This is when the child lives with one parent on a day-to-day basis. A parent may have visitation rights if sole physical custody is granted to the other parent.
- Shared Physical Custody – This is when the child lives with each parent half of the time.
Legal custody is arranged in one of the following ways:
- Sole Legal Custody – This is when one parent has the legal right to make all decisions pertaining to things such as the child’s health, education, and religious beliefs. (However, some of these issues, such as the children’s religion can be agreed in advance by the parties in their separation agreement or divorce settlement.)
- Joint Legal Custody – This is when both parents have the legal right to make decisions pertaining to things such as the child’s health, education, and religious beliefs. Alternatively, an agreement or order may assign some categories of decision-making to one parent and other categories to the other: for example, one parent might decide educational issues and the other might make medical decisions.
Visitation Rights in New York
In New York, “visitation” refers to the time that the non-custodial parent is legally allowed to spend with his or her child. Non-custodial parents have the legal right to spend quality time with their children, even if the other parent is awarded sole physical custody.
During the divorce proceedings, the terms of visitation are addressed by the court. At this time, the court will work with the parties and their attorneys to reach an agreement between both parents that outline the terms of the visitation arrangements.
Parents should work together to decide on a visitation schedule that is mutually agreeable. If the parties cannot agree, then the court will hold a hearing and will decide visitation terms for the parents. This is known as the “parenting plan.”
Parenting Plans on Long Island
A parenting plan is an agreement between both parents that outlines the terms of the custody and visitation arrangements. Parents must work together to decide on a visitation schedule that is mutually agreeable. In some cases, the mother and father may create a parenting plan that also addresses decisions pertaining to the child’s health, education, and general welfare.
Problems with Visitation Schedules in NY
In some unfortunate cases, a parent’s visitation rights may be challenged by the custodial parent or even by the child. The custodial parent may not be willing to accommodate the visitation schedule or the child may refuse to visit with the noncustodial parent. In these situations, it is in the best interest of the noncustodial parent to speak with a visitation attorney on Long Island.
By working with legal counsel, the noncustodial parent can help ensure their visitation rights are protected. A Long Island visitation lawyer can also challenge the terms of the child custody arrangement if the custodial parent is non-compliant.
What Are Supervised And Restricted Visitations?
Parents who have exhibited destructive or violent behavior in the past may only be allowed to visit their children with supervision. A responsible adult like a family member, friend, or court-appointed supervisor will have to be present for the duration of the visit. Supervised visits may take place in a neutral facility and can help parents establish a regular schedule without having to see or interact with the other parent.
Healthcare Issues & Child Custody in NY
In New York, noncustodial parents are usually ordered by a family law judge to provide health insurance for dependent children. All employers in this state receive a National Medical Support Notice whenever one of their employees is required by the court to provide healthcare for their children. From that point on, the employer will begin to withhold health insurance premiums from the noncustodial parents’ earnings.
At Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, we are prepared to help custodial and noncustodial parents on Long Island when faced with issues like:
- Employer doesn’t provide dependent/family coverage
- Noncustodial parent does not qualify for health coverage
- Noncustodial parent is unemployed and does not have health coverage
NY Child Custody FAQ
How Is Child Custody Decided in New York?
In custody cases on Long Island, NY, if a private agreement cannot be reached between the parents, then child custody will be determined by a Family or Supreme Court. The court considers various factors when determining child custody, such as:
- The child’s health
- The child’s age
- The child’s preference (If above a certain age)
- The health of both parents
- The lifestyle of both parents
- The parents’ ability to provide for their child’s needs
- The child’s current standard of living
The court will make their custody decision based on what is in the best interests of the child. Depending on the age of the child, a judge may also consider their personal preference. Judges may also call on the opinions of social workers, psychologist, or psychiatrists to help make the final decision.
What Is The Difference Between Sole And Joint Custody?
With sole custody, only one parent will have the authority to make decisions about their child’s upbringing, including education, health, and welfare, while with joint custody, both parents have equal decision-making power.
Parents with joint custody may not exclude each other when making important decisions. Violating this agreement will result in consequences. If one parent takes the other to court and they are found in contempt, then they could be responsible for paying the other parent’s attorney fees or may risk losing custody.
Can Child Custody Orders Be Modified?
Yes, modifications can be made to a custody arrangement as long as there is proof of a substantial change to the parent or child’s situation. These changes must be justifiable since the child’s best interests are at risk. Custody arrangements can also be revised if, for example, one parent refuses to allow the other to visit the child, or if they attempt to alienate the child from the other parent.
If both parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own, then the matter will have to be resolved in court.
Can Custody Affect My Ability To Move Away?
In New York, the custodial parent cannot relocate to an area where the other parent cannot exercise their visitation rights. In the event that the custodial parent wishes to relocate to another state, they will need to obtain the permission of the other parent or the court. If approved, then the visitation rights of the noncustodial parent will be revised to allow greater visitation time over summer or during the child’s vacation time.
Does My Child Need a Separate Bedroom for Overnight Stays?
In cases of overnight visits with their non-custodial parent, are children required to have their own bedrooms?
In short, while a separate bedroom for overnight stays is preferred by the Courts, it is not a requirement. The court will grant overnight visitation even if the children may not be afforded their own bedroom at the noncustodial parent’s residence. What is of paramount concern to the Court is that the child has quality time with the noncustodial parent and is safe and comfortable during those overnight visits.
Ultimately, it is up to the parents to determine how best to make the child comfortable with overnight accommodations, but often the parents cannot agree. In contested cases, every family’s situation is different and several factors will dictate how courts will determine what accommodations may be necessary for a child who is having an overnight visit with their noncustodial parent.
Factors the court may consider could include:
- The Child’s Age and Gender – If the noncustodial parent is the opposite sex of their child, the courts may expect them to have a separate, private place to sleep, get dressed, etc. Additionally, older children and teenagers require more privacy and space than younger children.
- Number of Children – Judges will look at how many children are involved when determining appropriate overnight accommodations; typically, more children will require more space.
- Parent’s Unique Circumstances – Judges understand that parents who pay child support or make less income than the other parent may not be able to afford a larger home.
- Child’s Ability to Adjust – In the best interests of the child, a judge will determine if having a smaller space at the parent’s home will impact the child’s psychological or physical well-being.
At the very least, courts will probably require a parent to provide a separate bed for the child if a separate bedroom is not available at the moment. This can be in the form of a pullout couch or a cot, or the parent may sacrifice their own bed for the night and have their child sleep in it.
Contact Our Child Custody Lawyers on Long Island, NY
The attorneys at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates have over 150 years of collective legal experience and are regarded as leaders in the fields of divorce and family law. We understand what a difficult and emotional time this may be for you. By retaining our services, we can help you navigate New York’s complicated legal system and pursue your child custody goals.