Types of Child Custody Arrangements on Long Island
After many years of practicing as a Family Law attorney on Long Island, I have found that many people do not really understand the distinct types of Child Custody arrangements that are possible or available to them. When deciding child custody arrangements, it is crucial to have a basic understanding of the terminology surrounding this area of law so that you can make the best arrangements for your family.
Physical Versus Legal Custody
In most states, including New York, there are two main aspects to child custody: Physical Custody and Legal Custody. Physical Custody refers to where the child is, who he or she is living with and who is responsible for the physical care of the child. Physical custody is commonly referred to as Residential Custody. Legal Custody deals with which parent can make certain decisions regarding the child. These decisions include aspects of the child’s health and medical needs, education and religious beliefs.
Sole Versus Joint Child Custody
Both Physical and Legal Custody can be further subdivided into Sole or Joint Physical Custody, and, Sole or Joint Legal Custody. These Child Custody arrangements can either be decided by the parties in a Stipulation of Settlement, or, a Long Island Court can order the appropriate arrangement.
In a Joint Physical Custody situation, the child would live with each parent an equal amount of time. Each parent would be equally responsible for the physical care and supervision of the child while enjoying parenting time. Alternatively, a family living under a Sole Physical Custody situation, the child would live with one parent more than 50% of the time. This parent is known as the Residential or Custodial parent. The Noncustodial parent would be entitled to scheduled Visitation with the child.
Legal Custody is divided in a similar fashion. If a family is living under a Joint Legal Custody arrangement, both parents are entitled to make major decisions regarding their child. Alternatively, if Sole Legal Custody is applicable, only one parent has the right to make major decisions for the child.
It’s also important to remember that the two types of custody do not affect each other. In other words, just because parents are sharing Joint Physical Custody, does not mean they will share Joint Legal Custody, and vice versa. Families can work under many different formulations of the Child Custody arrangements discussed above.
Modifying a Child Custody Arrangement
Under New York State law, either parent can seek a modification of a Child Custody arrangement when there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last court order (or filing of a Stipulation of Settlement). It is within the court’s discretion to decide if a substantial change in circumstances has occurred and, if so, what changes, if any, should be made to the current custody arrangement. This change will take into consideration both the change in circumstances, as well as the best interests of the child.
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