In this Article:
(click a link below to go right to that section):
- Types of Child Custody
- What Factors Do the Courts Use to Determine Child Custody on Long Island, NY?
- Contested Child Custody
- Child Visitation
- Child Support
- Father’s Rights
- Grandparent’s Rights
- Modification of Child Custody Orders
- Parental Alienation and Child Abuse/Neglect
- Parental Kidnapping
- Orders of Protection
- Same-Sex Child Custody
- Relocation and Child Custody
- Custody and the Holidays
- Custody with Siblings
- Modification and Enforcement of Child Custody
- Child Custody Mistakes Not to Make
- When to Call a Qualified Long Island, NY Child Custody Lawyer
If you and your ex share children, child custody is arguably the most important facet of your divorce, even before property division. Tragically, children all too often get caught in the cross-fire of divorcing parents, when what should be most important to everyone concerned is the welfare of the child or children.
The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. work tirelessly to mitigate the negative impact of your divorce on your children and ensure they receive the emotional support and guidance they need to grow up to be healthy, productive adults.
Child custody refers to a parent’s right to directly manage and control their child’s upbringing. Both you and your child’s other parent have a legal right to request child custody and visitation of your child or children during your divorce proceedings. The parent not awarded legal custody may still be entitled to visitation, so they can continue to enjoy quality time with their child and influence their upbringing. Following are some of the different child custody arrangements available on Long Island, NY.
Sole Legal Custody
In a sole legal custody arrangement, one parent has the right to make all major decisions for the child. This includes decisions about education, healthcare and religious instruction, etc. This arrangement generally also includes sole physical custody. The non-custodial parent often has very limited or no visitation rights.
Joint Legal Custody
If you and your ex-spouse can communicate amicably with regards to the best interests of your children, you may wish to opt for a joint legal custody arrangement. Under these terms, both parents make decisions together for their child. Joint legal custody also typically includes joint physical custody, but this may not always be the case. If the parents can’t reach an agreement, the matter may need to be taken to court and resolved by a judge.
Sole Physical Custody
In a sole physical custody arrangement, one parent is declared the “custodial parent” and the child resides primarily with him or her. The other parent, having been declared the non-custodial parent, will retain visitation rights with the child.
While the non-custodial parent and child may miss each other, this type of arrangement fosters a feeling of stability in the child as he or she will generally continuously reside in the same house in the same neighborhood and school district with their friends.
Joint Physical Custody
In a joint physical custody arrangement, both parents are awarded physical custody of the children. Such an arrangement may be satisfied by having the child live with his or her mother for one month or week and then reside with the father for that same period of time the next month or week.
While this type of arrangement may be most appealing to the parents, it’s important to consider how the constant back and forth movement may affect the child’s well-being and feelings of “home,” particularly if the two homes are not in the same neighborhood or school district.
Joint Residential Custody
Joint residential custody is similar to joint physical custody and simply allows both parents to have physical custody of the children on an equal basis.
In order to make a decision regarding child custody and visitation, courts consider the “best interests” of the child or children. To determine the best interests of the child, judges consider many factors, including but not limited to:
- The living arrangements of each parent
- The home’s proximity to school and activities
- The parents’ ability to cooperate with each other for the sake of the child
- Child care arrangements
- Drug and alcohol use
- Neglect or abuse
- Each individual parent’s behavior and parenting ability
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s relative age and health
- The child’s relationships with other members of the parent’s family
- If the child would be separated from his or her siblings
- Support systems available to the child and parent
The deep emotional bonds between parents and their children means that many child custody cases are contested. Often each parent wants sole physical or legal custody to the exclusion of the other parent. Regrettably, some parents use this demand as a way to “punish” the other parent for some perceived transgression or to induce them to give up other rights. Sadly, this puts the children in the middle of a fight they have no interest in nor control over.
In these scenarios, courts have to determine what is in the best interest of the child and decide on the appropriate child custody arrangement. Often, courts will turn to a forensic evaluator or other mental health expert to evaluate the situation so they can make the best decision for the child.
When child custody is contested between two parents, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent the child. A guardian ad litem is a person, often an attorney, who specifically advocates for your child, regardless of the wishes of either parent. If the court appoints a child guardian, you should be very careful in how you interact with that representative of the court. They are essentially an investigator and work to find the problems within your family dynamic rather than helpful solutions.
Child visitation is a somewhat outdated term that refers to parents who have less than 50% child custody. Many states are restructuring visitation as timesharing, which is a more accurate way of depicting what visitation really is. To advocate for or against visitation depending on the circumstances of your case, it’s critical to know what different custody scenarios might look like.
There are any number of methods of determining how to arrange child visitation or timesharing with non-custodial parents. It all depends upon the couple, the children, and their unique and individual circumstances. All couples are free to create whatever visitation schedule works for them and their family, so long as everyone is in agreement. If parents don’t agree, the court will need to decide.
Child custody and child support are closely intertwined; typically one doesn’t come without the other. If you have partial or full custody of your child, you may be eligible to receive child support payments. Or if your ex-spouse has primary custody, it’s likely that you will have to make child support payments. As you go through the custody process, you’ll learn more about how deeply custody and child support impact each other.
When you share custody of one or more children with your ex, co-parenting becomes a skill that is crucial to develop. For the benefit of your children, you need to be able to work with your ex to create as stable an environment as possible. You need to put aside whatever ill feelings you may have toward your ex for the benefit of your children. If you and your ex are unable to co-parent effectively together, your children will most likely be impacted emotionally.
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In the past, mothers were often awarded full custody of children except in very clear cases of severe abuse or neglect. With time, Long Island, NY courts have learned that children benefit most when they have a continued relationship with both parents after a divorce. Now, fathers are being afforded more rights than ever.
The key for fathers to get the custody and visitation they seek is for them to be able to demonstrate a long-term commitment to having an active and positive role in their children’s lives. They must be seen as genuinely caring for their child’s emotional and financial needs over time, not just during the divorce or custody hearing.
Establishing and achieving your rights as a father is often not easy. Many fathers face challenges establishing their rights to visit or make important decisions for their children. But with the right attorney in your corner, you can establish and protect your rights to have a significant role in your child’s life.
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Parents are not always awarded custody of their children. In some cases, a judge may elect to award custody to a grandparent, and very rarely, to another non-parental member of the family like an aunt or uncle.
A grandparent/grandchild relationship can be a very important one that can be key to the child’s family life and development. Grandparents are often a consistent source of experienced support throughout the child’s early life. As recent years have seen the increase in two-income families where both parents work, the role of grandparents as caregivers has increased exponentially, increasing the focus on grandparents rights in divorce.
While the value of the grandparent/grandchild relationship is recognized by courts on Long Island, NY family dynamics and relationships can make the determination of grandparent rights legally complex. Because of this, Long Island, NY family courts often view the determination of grandparents rights based upon the facts of an individual case before the court.
As far as visitation goes, the Supreme Court declared that grandparents are not automatically entitled to visitation rights with their grandchildren, so it is up to individual states to make the decision when a parent attempts to exclude grandparents from a child’s life.
Where it can become even more complex is when the grandparents have been the primary caregivers of the child for some time, particularly when both parents work early in the child’s life. Grandparents who find themselves excluded from the child’s life after they have had such a close relationship with the child may be able to make a case to see the children on a more regular basis.
Court orders for child custody, visitation, and child support are legally binding, usually until the child turns 18. However, much can happen over the span of a young person’s life and it’s not uncommon for circumstances to change, resulting in questions of whether the existing child custody order continues to be in the child’s best interests.
If necessary, a modification may be made if a parent believes that their ex may be harming the child or if they experience a job change that impacts their ability to meet their current visitation schedule.
On Long Island, NY modifying agreements has proven to be particularly difficult, so it’s critical that you take the time to make the best agreement for you and your family the first time. In situations that warrant a revision, these are very specific and need to be proven to be in the best interests of the child.
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In situations of neglect, abuse, or parental alienation, child custody matters are treated a little differently. Courts will evaluate the allegations and look at evidence from both sides. For example, if one parent is financially disadvantaged and the other is not, but the wealthier parent is abusive to the child, the courts will likely place the child with the lesser earning parent.
Parental alienation occurs when one or both parents deliberately attempts to drive a wedge between their child and the other parent. These actions can range from making disparaging comments about the other parent to as extreme as attempting to prevent all communication between the child and the parent.
Needless to say, attempts to turn the child against the other parent are unhealthy for the child and for their relationship with both parents. These actions are emotionally damaging to the child and can have lifelong psychological effects.
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Parental kidnapping occurs when one parent does not return the child to the other at the predetermined time. It often happens by mistake when parents aren’t familiar with what they can and cannot do when it comes to child custody.
A common example is when one parent is running late when dropping the child off at the end of the visitation period and hasn’t contacted the other parent. If the child is still in the custody of the first parent when their visitation time has ended, they are technically guilty of parental kidnapping.
However, in rare cases, it can be much more malicious than a simple mistake. In some cases, one parent may simply refuse to return the child after visitation or the custodial parent may refuse to allow visitation at all. In the most extreme cases of parental kidnapping, a parent will abduct the child and even take them across state lines.
If you or your children are in danger of being hurt, either through neglect or abuse, the first thing you should do to protect yourself and your children is call the police.
At Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C., we can help you obtain an Order of Protection or otherwise take action to protect your rights and safety. If you are considering applying for an order of protection, or if you have been summoned to court to defend against such an application, it’s crucial to have expert legal guidance.
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New York has advanced the rights afforded to LGBTQ+ members of the state over the years. In a recent move, the state passed a law that considers children born to or adopted by same-sex couples during marriage to be “children of the marriage.” This means that both parents have equal rights to the child, even if only one parent is biological.
When a custodial parent decides to move, particularly to a location that significantly impacts the current visitation arrangement, things can become increasingly complex.
Courts typically evaluate proposed relocations with scrutiny, weighing factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the reason for the move, and how it may affect the child’s overall well-being. The noncustodial parent often contests the relocation. In most cases, custodial parents need court approval before moving away.
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Can Custodial Parents Relocate After Divorce?
Child custody arrangements during the holidays can be a delicate aspect of co-parenting, requiring thoughtful consideration and cooperation between divorced or separated parents.
Many custody agreements include specific provisions outlining holiday schedules, designating where the child will spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or other important occasions. Flexibility is key, and parents often negotiate arrangements that alternate yearly or allow for shared time during the holiday season and even during summers and other school break times.
If you have more than one child, child custody issues can become even more difficult. Typically, courts attempt to keep siblings together because splitting them between parents has such a significant impact on the emotional and mental health of all the children.
However, there’s nothing that legally forces courts to award custody of both children in the same manner. If deemed to be in each of the child’s best interests, siblings may be separated.
Child custody and visitation schedules, whether created by agreement or by court order are legally binding on the parents. Failing to show up on scheduled visitation days or failing to return the child on time can be considered violations to the order, whether the acts are intentional, spiteful or passive aggressive actions.
The emotionally charged nature of child custody, where parents feel they are fighting to protect their child’s well-being and their access to their offspring, often fosters such high tensions that parents’ impulsive actions can have an adverse effect on their ability to achieve their child custody goals.
As experienced divorce attorneys on Long Island, NY we see many of these critical mistakes that occur at the beginning of a child custody case that put many parents at a disadvantage. Here are a number of common mistakes we see parents make regularly and how to avoid them:
Leaving the Marital Home
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a child custody case is to be the one to leave the marital home. This essentially leaves your child with your spouse and gives them more foothold when petitioning for custody. If you want to retain custody of your child or children, you can’t move out of the home without your child, period. No matter how bad the situation is with your partner, if you leave without your child, you are basically giving up custody.
Allowing Your Spouse to Take the Children Out of the Home
As experienced divorce attorneys practicing on Long Island, NY we recognize that it can be difficult to prevent your spouse from moving out of the marital home with the children. However, there are steps you can take to protect your rights.
First, as soon as it is clear that you and your spouse are getting divorced, put in writing that it’s not okay with you for them to take the children. This can be done through texts and emails so you have a record. Be firm that your spouse is free to leave the marital home, but your children must remain until the divorce and child custody case is fully resolved.
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When a couple decides to divorce, the support, custody and visitation of their children are often some of the most contentious aspects of the proceedings. Emotions can run high where the welfare of your child or children is concerned and too often they become pawns in a battle between parents who otherwise mean well.
Our compassionate and experienced attorneys are well versed in all areas of child custody and support issues and will help to ensure that your child’s or children’s interests remain at the forefront of any negotiation with your spouse.
Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. protects your rights and the rights of your children to ensure they reside in the household that is in their best interest, have appropriate visitation with the non-custodial parent and are financially supported to ensure they receive the best childhood possible.
If you’re dealing with child custody issues, don’t wait to get experienced legal help — your children’s well-being depends on it. We’re ready to assist you with all aspects of your child custody case. Contact us now for a free consultation at 631-923-1910 or fill out the form on this page and we’ll get right back to you.
I’ve known Christine & Robert for over 4 years now. Christine helped me navigate through the most awful time of my life in court with my Ex while my children were extremely young. I felt so comfortable having her by my side helping me fight for what was best for my babies! Unfortunately a few years later (recently) my ex decided to take me back to re arrange the custody schedule & re visit support. This time around Robert represented me . I felt very confidant with having him by my side . He is a shark & went to bat for me !!!! Dealing with something like this can create so much anxiety but I’ve felt very comfortable knowing I have this duo by my side . When it comes to your children you want the absolute best for them. I will forever be grateful for Robert & Christine & all of their knowledge when it comes to custody & support !!
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