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Child Custody Lawyer, Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. Educates On Available Options

One of the major issues that arise for most Long Island couples during divorce proceedings is that of child custody. For a family that is used to living together under one roof it may be difficult for either parent to imagine living separate and apart from their children. While this is an unfortunate outcome of most divorces, there are a variety of arrangements available to you and your spouse in order to make the transition as easy as possible.

How Do I Get Custody of My Children After My Divorce in Nassau County or Suffolk County on Long Island?

If you are looking to petition for child custody in Nassau County or Suffolk County on Long Island, New York, you must first be sure all jurisdictional requirements have been satisfied. The children must have resided within the State of New York for at least six months in order for a New York court to have jurisdiction over a child custody issue. Of course, this residency requirement is not an issue if your children have lived in New York for their entire lives. If on the other hand you have just moved to New York with your children, you will have to either wait six months to file for custody in New York, or file in the state where the children resided for the previous six months.

What Factors Do Nassau County and Suffolk County Courts Use to Determine Child Custody After My Divorce?

When one thinks of child custody, most people initially assume that the mother will be granted full legal custody. However, there is no such presumption in New York, and that means that either parent can be granted custody.

New York courts follow what is known as the “best interests of the child” standard. Under this standard, the court will consider the child’s relationship with each parent, the parent’s relative age and health, the child’s relationships with other members of the parent’s family, and if the child would be separated from his or her siblings (this list is not exhaustive). Each child custody situation is different, and there are no black and white guidelines. Therefore, it is important to discuss the specifics of your case with your child custody lawyer, Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. will be happy to help you learn what might be important in your case in Nassau County or Suffolk County court.

What are the Different Types of Child Custody Arrangements?

It is important to differentiate between Legal and Physical Child Custody. Legal Custody concerns the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child, while Physical Custody simply refers to where the child will live.

  • Sole Legal Child 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, amongst other things. This arrangement permits only one parent to have custody of the child. The non-custodial parent will often still have visitation rights, however, in extreme circumstances, the non-custodial parent may have no visitation privileges at all.
  • Joint Legal Child Custody: if you and your spouse can communicate amicably, you may wish to opt for a joint legal custody arrangement. Under such terms, the parents act as a unit in deciding the above mentioned “major decisions” for each child. However, if both parents cannot reach an agreement, the action cannot be taken. Therefore, it is extremely important to be sure you have the type of relationship with your spouse that permits for open and honest communication about your children. Because each parent will at one point have physical custody of the children, the daily, routine decisions of the children’s lives are made by the parent who has physical custody of the child at that time.
  • Sole Physical Child Custody: in a Sole Physical Custody arrangement, one parent is declared the “custodial parent” and the children reside primarily with him or her. The other parent, having been declared the non-custodial parent, will retain visitation rights with the children. While the non-custodial parent and children may miss each other, this type of arrangement fosters a feeling of stability in the child as he or she will continuously reside in the same house.
  • Joint Physical Custody or Shared 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 children live with their mother for one month or week and then reside with their father for that same period of time. While this type of arrangement may be most appealing to the parents, you must consider how the constant back and forth movement may affect the children’s well-being and feelings of “home.”

Custody of your children, both legal and physical, is a sensitive matter in any divorce. Before discussing the issue with your child custody lawyer, Long Island couples should attempt to reach an agreement together so that they have an idea of which arrangement may work best.

What about Parenting Time and Holiday Schedules?

When you enter into a sole residential custody arrangement, the non-custodial parent will be awarded parenting time with the minor children. The right to parenting time does not come in one-size-fits-all, and the type and extent of the parenting time depends on the individual circumstances. If, for example, there have been instances of domestic violence or doubts about the safety of the children when with the non-custodial parent, the non-custodial parent may be awarded only supervised time or no time at all. If the custodial and non-custodial parent cannot communicate amicably at all and there are concerns over tensions when dropping-off or picking up the children at the residence of either parent, the parents may agree to drop-off and pick-up the children at a neutral location, or direct a third party to be present when the change of custody for parenting time is taking place.

Holidays Can Be Stressful in Child Custody Arrangements

Holidays, especially the winter season holidays, are a stressful time for most American families – where to go, what to eat, what to wear, and what gifts to purchase. However, if you are recently divorced or considering a divorce, the thought of not spending the holidays with your children can perhaps be the most stressful thought of all. Thankfully there are a variety of arrangements you and your partner can enter into to help avoid the last minute stress of where your children will spend Christmas, Hanukkah, or Thanksgiving.

Because every family is different, the following are simply suggestions that I have seen work in the past, and are not meant to be a set of rules that you must follow. You and your spouse are free to create any agreement that works best for you and your children.

  1. As the first option, you and your spouse may agree to follow the 12-month calendar with one parent having the children for the first holiday, the other parent having the children for the second holiday, and so-on and so-forth.
  2. Or, if you want to ensure that you each get to spend each holiday with the children, you can alternative years, i.e., the children will spend Christmas with you in odd years and they will spend Christmas with your spouse in even years.
  3. You may also decide to enter into a more personalized agreement; perhaps your favorite Holiday is Halloween, while you are indifferent to Christmas and your spouse enjoys Thanksgiving. You can agree that you will have the children on the days that mean the most to you.
  4. If you and your spouse are having a difficult time coming to an agreement, you may consider the option of splitting each holiday evenly, with you enjoying five hours with the children and your spouse enjoying five hours with the children.

Need Help with Child Custody on Long Island, NY? We’re Here for You

The most important thing to remember when trying to resolve a child custody issue in Nassau County or Suffolk County is that child custody arrangements and battles impact your children the most. If possible, try to have such discussions outside the presence of your children, and do not be afraid to seek the advice of your child custody lawyer, Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., who may be able to suggest a child custody agreement you and your spouse had never considered. For a free initial Child Custody consultation with an experienced, compassionate Long Island divorce attorney, contact us at 631-923-1910.

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