Everything You Need to Know About Child Custody & Visitation on Long Island

by | Jul 2, 2019

If you and your ex share children, child custody is arguably the most important facet of your divorce. Child custody matters are rarely straightforward and need to be handled by a Long Island family law attorney with extensive experience in custody cases. Here’s what you need to know.

Long Island Child Custody Basics

A key component of success in child custody cases on Long Island, NY is to educate yourself about all the various aspects and their implications. It’s important to learn about your rights, how Long Island family courts make custody decisions, types of custody, and mistakes you should avoid. Get familiar with New York divorce and custody laws, visitation laws, and child support laws before you start making any moves.

What Is Child Custody?

Child Custody, sometimes referred to as Parenting, refers to a parent’s right to directly manage and control their child’s upbringing. As a parent, you each have a legal right to request child custody and visitation of your child or children during your divorce proceedings and the parent not awarded legal custody may still be entitled to Child Visitation so they can continue to enjoy quality time with their child.

What is the Difference Between Legal Child Custody and Physical Child Custody?

Legal Custody provides parents the rights to make significant life decisions for your child, including schooling, religious training, medical care, etc.

Physical Custody, as the name implies, is where the child lives on a day-to- day basis. The parent with primary Physical Custody is often called the child’s Custodial Parent or Primary Caretaker.

Child Custody Evaluations

In order to make a decision regarding child custody and visitation, courts on Long Island, and in New York State, consider the best interests of the child or children. Learn about what judges may consider when determining the best interests of the child or children in a case in this article, How Will a Judge Decide Custody?

To determine the “best interests of the child”, judges consider many factors, including the living arrangements of each parent, the parents’ ability to cooperate with each other for the sake of the child, child care arrangements, drug and alcohol use, neglect or abuse, the individual parent’s behavior, among other factors. In this article, a Long Island Family Law Attorney Explains How Long Island Courts Decide ‘Best Interests of the Child’ in Custody Cases.

Long Island courts look at the complete family picture when determining child custody and visitation. Key areas they will examine include the home environment, each parent’s parenting ability, support systems available to the child and parent, the home’s proximity to school and activities, and other factors, to determine what is truly in the child’s best interests. Learn more about Custody Evaluations in Long Island Child Custody and Visitation.

Child Custody Options

Child custody is not a “one-size-fits-all” situation. There are a number of different child custody arrangements for you and your ex to choose from. The end goal is always to create a custody situation that works for your child or children, you and your ex-spouse. Learn Your Child Custody Options for Your Long Island Divorce in this article

Learn how to get custody of your children after your divorce, the factors judges will use to determine child custody, the different types of child custody arrangements, parenting time and holiday schedules and how to get answers to your other child custody questions in this article, Child Custody Lawyer, Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq. Educates On Available Options

Learn the difference between Physical and Legal Custody, Sole versus Joint Child Custody, how to modify a child custody arrangement and other questions about child custody on Long Island in this article: Types of Child Custody Arrangements on Long Island.

Of course, the emotional bonds between parent and child means that many child custody cases on Long Island are contested. In these cases, the courts have to determine what is in the best interest of the child to determine the appropriate child custody arrangement. Often, courts will turn to a forensic evaluator or other mental health expert to evaluate the situation to help the courts make the best decision for the child. Learn what’s involved in Contested Child Custody in Nassau County & Suffolk County on Long Island.

What is a Law Guardian or Guardians Ad Litem?

When child custody is contested between two parents, courts often appoint a Law Guardian to represent the child. Learn what a Law Guardian is and their role in representing your child or children in determining how child custody will be awarded in this article, Divorce Attorney Long Island Child Custody & Law Guardians

If the court appoints a Child Guardian, or guardian ad litem, in your Child Custody case, you should be very careful in how you interact with that representative of the court. He or she is essentially an investigator in a family law case. Learn how to help facilitate the investigation while protecting your own rights in this post: How to Work With a Court-Appointed Child Guardian

Don’t Make These Child Custody Mistakes

Child Custody Mistakes on Long Island If you’re getting divorced and you have children, you will at some point have to deal with the issue of child custody. It’s important to understand that your actions before your divorce proceedings begin, and especially during the divorce, can have a dramatic impact on your chances of achieving the child custody arrangements you will seek. Learn how to keep yourself from losing your child custody battle before it even begins here: Don’t Lose Your Long Island Child Custody Battle Before It Starts.

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. Here are a number of common mistakes we see parents make regularly and how to avoid them: Long Island Divorce Lawyer Explains How to Avoid Common Child Custody & Visitation Mistakes

How Does Child Custody Affect Educational Decisions?

If you and your ex have Joint Legal Custody of your child or children, you both have the legal right to access any of your children’s educational records. Joint Residential Custody, on the other hand, can create issues if you and your spouse live in different school districts. Essentially, the child has two residences, and, for educational purposes, can only have one because children “are entitled to attend school in the District where they reside” tuition free. You could essentially wind up paying tuition for your child to attend public school. Learn how you can avoid this issue: Divorce, Child Custody & Your Child’s Education on Long Island

Child Custody & Visitation Enforcement

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. Learn what you can do if one parent will not follow the child custody and visitation schedule: Long Island Child Custody Lawyer Explains How To Enforce Child Custody and Visitation Orders in New York.

Child Custody and Child Support

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.

Shared child custody refers to an equal share of parenting time with the child(ren) for each parent. Many people believe that this should result in parents also sharing an equal split of expenses. This is not the case, however, in Long Island, New York. In shared child custody, one parent is still deemed to be the non-custodial parent who is therefore required to pay child support despite of the amount of time they spend with the child(ren). Should Child Support Payments Be Made in Shared Custody?

The New York Child Support Standards Act does not directly address cases of child support in shared custody cases. Because of this, there have been several court cases challenging the idea that one parent should pay child support in cases of shared custody. Learn more about these cases and the state of this ruling. Shared Custody Does Not Mean You Do Not Have to Pay Child Support on Long Island, NY

Child Visitation

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. Discuss with your attorney what percentage of time would be ideal to advocate for during your case.

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 and their unique and individual circumstances. All couples are free to create whatever visitation schedule works for them and their family. In recent years some progressive methods have been developed to solve today’s unique living situations, including Virtual Child Visitation and Nesting Child Custody Arrangements.


When you share custody of one or more children with your ex, co-parenting becomes a skill that is crucial to develop. If you and your ex are unable to co-parent effectively together, your children will most likely be impacted emotionally. Make an effort to learn about effective co-parenting in this article 6 Ways to Improve Co-Parenting During a Divorce on Long Island.

Did you know that there are mobile applications that can help you and your ex-spouse co-parent? These tools can help relieve stress and help you to create a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex. Learn more about these apps here: Can Co-Parenting Apps Make My Long Island Divorce Easier?

Father’s Rights

Father's Rights, Long Island, NY 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 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.

Learn the criteria Long Island courts use to determine who gets custody of the children of a divorcing couple and how that can just as easily be the father as the mother in this article, Father’s Rights in Long Island NY Child Custody Cases. Hint: it’s all about what is in the best interest of the child.

As times have changed and households on Long Island have become more equal with regard to income and the roles mothers and fathers play in their children’s lives, so too have child custody cases. While once the rarity, today more and more fathers are being awarded custody. Learn more here: Fathers’ Rights and Roles Have Changed on Long Island.

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. Read more about it in this article, Long Island Divorce Attorney Explains How Fathers Have Rights in Divorce Too

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. All too often, these men “give up” fighting this uphill battle against mothers who see their role as protecting their children or may fight as retribution, whether or not it is in the child’s best interest to have their father play an important role in the child’s life. With the right attorney in your corner, you can establish and protect your rights to have an important role in your child’s life. Here, a Long Island Family Law Attorney Explains Benefits of Fighting for Father’s Rights.

While child custody is supposed to be gender-neutral and based solely upon what is in the best interest of the child, one only needs to look at the statistical evidence to see that custody is awarded far more frequently to the mother than the father. There are several possible explanations for this gender bias in child custody, and if you’re a father who seeks custody, you should read this article, Gender Discrimination in Child Custody in Nassau, Suffolk, Long Island NY, to arm yourself for the fight ahead.

Grandparent’s Rights

Parents are not always awarded custody of their children. In some cases, a Long Island family Court 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. If a grandparent believes that a child remaining with his or her parents is dangerous, they can petition the court for custody. Read this article When Child Custody is Awarded to a Non-Parent on Long Island to learn more.

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, family dynamics and relationships can make the determination of grandparent rights legally complex. Because of this, Long Island family courts often view the determination of grandparents rights based upon the facts of an individual case before the court. Learn more about grandparents rights in this article: Long Island Family Law Lawyer Explains Grandparents Rights in Nassau County & Suffolk County, Long Island

Grandparent’s Visitation Rights

Unfortunately for many grandparents across the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that grandparents are not automatically entitled to visitation rights with their grandchildren, so it is up to individual states to determine the rights of the grandparent when a parent attempts to exclude grandparents from the child’s life. In the end, it should come down to the same guidance as for visitation with a non-custodial parent: what is in the best interest of the child. 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 through Child Visitation rights, or something to that effect. Learn more about Grandparent’s Rights to Child Visitation in Nassau County & Suffolk County Court.

All too often a spiteful custodial parent will attempt to deny their former spouse’s grandparents access to their grandchildren, but grandparents can also have rights with regard to visitation of their grandchildren. Learn what to do if your ex-spouse is attempting to keep your children from your parents (their grandparents): What are the Visitation Rights of my Children’s Grandparents After a Divorce on Long Island, NY?

You can get more answers to your Frequently asked questions about Grandparents right here: Long Island Divorce Lawyer Answers FAQs About Grandparents’ Rights

Modification of Court Orders for Child Custody, Visitation & Child Support

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 life and it’s not uncommon for circumstances to change 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, modifying Child Support or Custody 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. New York State law, which governs Long Island courts in these issues has very few, strict options to modify these kinds of agreements once they are in place. Learn what you need to know to find out if you Can Modify Your Child Support or Child Custody Agreement

While it’s certainly difficult to modify a child custody agreement, there are situations that warrant a revision. These are very specific and need to be proven to be in the best interests of the child. Read this article in which an experienced Long Island Child Custody Lawyer Explains How to Modify Child Custody.

Are you wondering if you can modify your child support agreement? Read these two case studies of fictional parents that illustrate the “real-world” complexities of attempting to modify a child custody arrangement Case Study: Can You Modify a Child Custody Agreement?

Parental Alienation, Child Abuse and Neglect

In situations of neglect, abuse, or parental alienation, child custody matters are treated a little differently. Long Island courts will evaluate the allegations and look at evidence from both sides. Courts in New York, along with all other states in the U.S., places the best interests of the child above all else when determining custody. 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. Read this to learn more about Child Custody & Substance Abuse Issues on Long Island.

Parental alienation is the process by which one (or, sadly, sometimes both) parents deliberately attempts to drive a wedge between their child and the other parent.

In the course of, and after divorce proceedings, the anger and resentment of one, or both, parents drives them to take actions intended to disparage the other parent in the eyes of their child or children. These attempts to turn the child against the other parent are unhealthy for the child and for their relationship with both parents. While these actions 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, these actions are emotionally damaging to the child immediately and can have lifelong psychological effects. As terrible, and unfortunately common, as these actions are, you must be able to prove them in court with evidence to take legal action. Read this to learn more about How Parental Alienation Affects Your Kids on Long Island.

Parental Kidnapping

Parental kidnapping occurs often 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. In this post, an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney Answers: How Do I Prevent My Child From Being Abducted by My Ex?

Gender and Same-Sex Child Custody Issues

same sex couple paternity 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. Learn more about Children of Same-Sex Couple are ‘Children of Marriage’ in NY.

Sibling Issues with Child Custody

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. Learn more here: Long Island Divorce Attorney Says Courts Can Split Up Children Between Parents

If custody of your children is split up between you and your ex, how do you help to maintain their relationship and ensure they are not as separated as you and your former spouse. Read this article Do Children Get Visitation with Siblings After Long Island Divorce? to learn what to do to ensure your children can maintain their relationships with their siblings.

Need Help with a Long Island Child Custody Matter? Call Us Now

If you’re dealing with child custody issues, don’t wait to get experienced legal help — your children’s well-being depends on it. Our Long Island law firm is ready to assist you with all aspects of your child custody case. Contact us now for a free consultation at 631-923-1910.

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