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The future of your children is of ultimate concern in any divorce case. Will parenting duties be shared by both parents? Will each parent have the right to make critical decisions about the child’s life in education, medical decisions, religion, and more? Some child custody cases can be resolved amicably between the two parents, but many cases are hotly disputed. Whatever your situation, of the many factors that could affect the outcome of your custody case, the best interests of your child is the most significant factor in the eyes of the court.

You need an attorney who thinks in this same way. If you are facing a child custody issue in Suffolk County, our firm can assist you in upholding your rights to preserve your child’s best interests.

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  • Over 40 Years' of Combined Legal Experience
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Our firm comes highly recommended by the courts, our colleagues and past clients. To hear from some more previous clients, read through our client testimonials page and see for yourself! Our client satisfaction is the strongest testimony of our dedication to excellence. Discover what our top-rated child custody attorney may be able to help you.

Contact Steven P. Kuhn, Attorney at Law at (631) 629-6874 today to schedule your free consultation.

Is New York a Mother or Father State?

One of the first questions many parents have when navigating a custody battle is whether their state favors the mother or the father. In New York, neither parent has a greater right to custody.

However, fathers must sign an Acknowledgment of Custody, receive an Order of Filiation, or be listed as the child's father on the birth certificate to file a custody case with the court. Birth mothers do not face the same requirements (since they gave biological birth to the child), although adoptive mothers may.

That doesn't necessarily mean New York courts are always impartial. Legal scholars are critical of New York's status as only two states with no statutes in place governing how courts should handle shared parenting (Rhode Island is the other). While several shared parenting bills have been introduced, none of them have passed yet.

For this reason, it's imperative that parents engaged in custody disputes retain the counsel of an experienced custody lawyer. A skilled custody lawyer can help you advocate for your parental rights and build a strong case, minimizing the chance of court-related bias playing a role in the case.

Determining Factors for Child Custody in New York

If you are facing a child custody dispute, it is important that you are familiar with the New York child custody laws. In New York there are several types of child custody that can be awarded including sole custody, joint custody, and even third party custody.

There are several different factors that the court takes into consideration when determining child custody that include:

  • The best interests of the child
  • Which parent acted as the primary caretaker before the divorce
  • The physical and mental well-being of each parent
  • If either parent has a dependency on drugs or alcohol
  • If there was any history of domestic violence
  • What the work schedules are for each parent
  • The relationship that the child has with each parent and their siblings
  • If each parent is able to encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent

The court prefers to award joint custody if it is in the best interest of the child. However, if the court finds that one parent is not "fit" to care and provide for the child, that parent could be awarded visitation rights or supervised visitation. If both parents are unfit to care for the child, then custody could be awarded to a third party such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling.

New York State Criteria For an Unfit Parent

New York courts use a variety of criteria to decide whether a parent is fit to act as a caregiver, some of which we covered earlier on this page. Courts examine the following factors when determining the fitness of a parent:

  • Stability. The term "stability" is multifaceted in custody disputes. For example, if one parent has more steady or lucrative employment, the court may consider them more financially stable. Similarly, if one parent lives in a location the child is familiar with, the court may view that as a more "stable" living arrangement.
  • Childcare arrangements. The court also considers what type of childcare arrangements each parent can provide (such as whether a parent can pay for daycare, provide a babysitter, etc.).
  • Caretaker status. Judges often try to determine which parent acted as the primary caregiver while the parents were married (assuming the custody battle occurs during a divorce). Judges may try and ensure the primary caregiver acts as the custodial parent post-divorce, assuming they acted responsibly prior to the custody dispute.
  • Substance use. If a parent has a substance abuse problem (drugs or alcohol), the court is less likely to deem them "fit" to parent.
  • Mental health. Court also take into account the mental health of the parents. If one parent has a mental health disorder and refuses to seek treatment, or is suffering from a condition that could compromise the child's well-being, the court will be less likely to award that parent custody.
  • Physical health. Physical health also plays a role in parenting. If a parent needs a caregiver or has a condition that would make it difficult to care for the child, the court will factor that into the custody case.
  • Spousal abuse. Courts often assume that a partner who commits domestic violence may also be a danger to their child and, as such, may be reticent to provide them with custody.
  • Abuse, neglect, abandonment, or other interference with visitation responsibilities. If there's evidence of parental abuse, the court will not allow that parent to have custody of their child, and may not even provide them with visitation rights (depending on the level of abuse).
  • Home environment. Courts want to try and ensure that children are safe with their caregivers. If one parent can't maintain a safe home (or childproof their home, depending on the age of the child), the court may be less likely to provide them with custody. Courts also factor parental behavior into home environment assessments (for example, if a parent regularly gets into relationships with violent people, the court may determine they have a dangerous home environment).
  • Child's testimony. Depending on the age of the chlid, the court may listen to a child's testimony of their parent's capabilities as caregivers. Generally, the closer a child is to 18-years-old, the more heavily the court weighs their preference.

If a parent fails to meet the court's expectations for the above criteria (for example, having a dangerous home environment, being financially unstable, lacking mental or physical well-being, abusing substances, etc.), the court may determine that parent is "unfit" to act as a caregiver.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the court may restrict custody or visitation rights for the unfit parent, or may remove their custody/visitation rights entirely.

If you believe your child's other parent is unfit to act as a caregiver, you should consult your lawyer. They can help you build a case that illustrates the other parent's inability to act in the child's best interests, increasing your chances of receiving a favorable outcome in your custody case. Similarly, if you're wrongfully accused of being an unfit parent, a child custody lawyer can help you effectively combat those accusations.

Related Reading

Call a Child Custody Attorney in Suffolk County

In any child custody case, there are several possible arrangements of legal custody and physical custody. Many parents choose to maintain two households, with custody of the children shared on alternating weeks or on some other parenting schedule. Even when a case is resolved with one parent gaining physical custody of the children, the other parent typically has the right to visitation.

While of course the outcome of the case is important, the manner in which a child custody case is resolved can be of paramount value. Cases of this importance should be managed by a high quality Suffolk County divorce lawyer, such as Steven P. Kuhn, Attorney at Law. Backed by over three decades of legal experience, he knows how to resolve difficult custody matters before they escalate to a trial. Don’t hesitate to discover what our skilled, compassionate negotiator can achieve for you and your loved ones. Request your free case evaluation today!

Find trusted legal guidance for each step of your child custody case! Contact a Suffolk County child custody lawyer from our firm for immediate legal counsel. Call (631) 629-6874.

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