Understanding Joint Custody Let us help you achieve results you deserve.

Joint Custody in Suffolk County

Joint Custody in Suffolk County

Until a child turns eighteen, the New York state court can make decisions regarding a child's custody and visitation. The law states that a custody award is based on the best interests of the child or children. In most cases, the court will want the child to have access to both parents. The decision regarding custody could be physical custody, joint custody or in some instances, the placement of a child in a relative's care if the parents are proven to be unable to care for their children adequately.

Joint custody could be the best choice for the child. When a divorce has been bitter and the two former partners are not able to communicate, this can be difficult initially. Getting these matters resolved and helping our client and their children move forward with their new life with the least amount of emotional upheaval and stress is important.

A Suffolk County divorce lawyer from the Steven P. Kuhn, Attorney at Law will make every effort to smooth this process and get the resolution you want. At this crucial time you need trusted legal counsel to pursue the outcome that you believe is best for you and your children.

Is joint custody the best choice for your child?

The decision about joint custody is determined by the court when it cannot be resolved through negotiation or mediation and the following are some of the considerations that may be taken into account:

  • Which parent has been the main caregiver to the child or children;
  • The parenting skills, mental and physical health of each parent
  • Work schedules of each parent
  • The parent's ability to cooperate with the other parent
  • Any domestic violence in the family

Joint custody is often the best possible choice for the children, allowing them substantial access to both parents. This can be less troubling for the children, even if they have two homes. When you are interested in sharing custody with your former spouse, we can help you get the matter resolved and present it to the court, or can fight for this form of custody should it be necessary.

How to File for Joint Custody

The process for filing for joint custody varies on a case-by-case basis, depending on your relationship with your co-parent.

If you and your co-parent agree on terms for the custody arrangement and want to avoid a lengthy battle in the courtroom, you can settle for joint custody. The settlement process can also occur during a court battle if the parties reach an arrangement through negotiation or a form of alternative dispute resolution like mediation.

Before settling, you and your partner should each hire a custody attorney. They'll help you navigate the custody process more easily, and can also ensure that your custody arrangement is equitable and legally sound.

To settle your custody arrangement, complete the following steps:

  1. Draft a parenting plan with your co-parent. Your parenting plan lays out the terms for the custody arrangement, like how you'll share time with your child, expectations the parents have for each other, expectations they have for the child, etc.
  2. Complete your paperwork. Your lawyer can help you file a custody petition with your local court. You can attach the joint parenting plan to the custody petition, along with verification both parents agree to the parenting plan.
  3. Receive the judge's approval. Judges often approve custody settlements fairly quickly, since it indicates the parents can work together in their child's best interests. Once the judge signs the order, there's only one step left.
  4. File the settlement with the clerk. Filing the settlement with the court will finalize it, making your custody arrangement official and legally binding.

However, settling isn't always possible. If the parents disagree on terms for their custody arrangement, or a factor like domestic violence or child abuse plays a role in the case, the parents may need to litigate the custody case in court.

To file for a joint custody arrangement in court, the parents must take the following steps:

  1. File a custody petition. One parent (called the petitioner) files a custody petition with their county family law court. If you file for a custody case, you can also attach a proposed parenting plan to the custody petition.
  2. Complete and turn in your paperwork. Your lawyer and the court clerk can help you identify any remaining paperwork you need to fill out to file your case successfully, and can help you turn it in.
  3. Serve papers to the other parent. At this stage, you'll need to serve the other parent (called the respondent) with papers notifying them of the custody case. A third party, like a law enforcement officer, must serve the papers.
  4. The respondent files an Answer. At this point, the respondent can file an answer. They may include counterclaims to allegations against them, and may also attach their own parenting plan to their response.
  5. Litigation. Finally, you and your co-parent litigate your case in court. Since courts often prefer for parties to settle custody cases, the judge presiding over the case may ask you and your partner to compromise using a method of alternative dispute resolution like mediation. If you cannot compromise, the court will draft a parenting plan it deems equitable on behalf of the parents.

An experienced custody lawyer can help you protect your parental rights in court and pursue a custody arrangement that serves your child's best interests.

Contact a Suffolk County child custody lawyer from our firm for trusted legal counsel.

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