When Child Custody is Awarded to a Non-Parent on Long Island
Child custody is one of the most emotional aspects of family law on Long Island. Nassau County and Suffolk County courts do their best to facilitate meaningful relationships between children and their parents through various custody and visitation arrangements. However, there are some unfortunate instances where neither parent has the ability to provide the child with proper safety, security, love and basic necessities. Here’s what you need to know about how child custody is awarded in New York and in what situations it may be awarded to a non-parent.
How Do Long Island Courts Award Child Custody?
In the past, child custody was typically awarded to the mother. However, Long Island courts now understand that there is much more to consider when making a decision about child custody. There are a number of factors that courts use to determine which parent should have primary custody of the child and if the other parent should have shared time and if so, how much. These factors include but are not limited to the age of both parents, their physical and mental health, where they live and the condition of their home, and their income and assets.
What Happens If Neither Parent Would Be the Best Fit for the Child?
Most child custody cases end with primary custody being awarded to at least one parent, if not shared custody to both. Unfortunately, in some cases, neither parent meets the standards set forth by the state. For example, neither parent may be considered suitable if:
- They have a documented substance abuse problem
- They have a history of domestic violence
- They have a history of abusing the child
- They have a history of neglecting the child
- They have a history of not providing for the child’s medical needs
- Neither parent is employed or makes enough money to provide for the child
- Neither parent has a stable, clean home with enough space for the child
- Both parents have mental or physical illnesses that make it difficult to care for the child
More often than not, it’s a mixture of factors. For example, one parent may not have a job due to severe mental illness and the other parent may have a history of alcohol abuse and multiple DUI charges. Or, one parent may have a rundown studio apartment without a bedroom for the child and the other leaves the child at home alone often to go out on the town.
Long Island courts want to award custody to at least one if not both parents because in most cases, it’s what is best for the child. Studies have proven time and again that children fare better when they have meaningful, supportive relationships with both parents. Non-parental custody is usually only awarded in cases where significant issues exist. It’s not enough to be able to show that awarding someone other than the parents custody is in the best interest of the child — evidence of extraordinary circumstances, such as child abuse and neglect or substance abuse, must be brought forward.
Who Does Get Custody If the Parents Don’t?
There are two ways that New York courts award non-parental custody. They may decide during a divorce or other family law case that custody should not be awarded to the parents and will typically appoint a guardian until a child custody case for the non-parent can be heard. Or, a non-parent can file for custody with evidence of extraordinary circumstances. Photographs, videos, journal entries, and other evidence can be critical in non-parent custody cases.
Most of the time, custody in non-parent cases is awarded to an extended family member such as a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or even a cousin. However, this doesn’t mean that you must be a family member to petition for custody of the child. The court will consider your relationship with the child as well as the relationship the child has with extended family members and make a decision in the best interests of the child.
Questions About Child Custody? Contact Our Long Island Divorce Law Firm Today
We understand that child custody cases are wrought with emotion on all sides. Whether you’re a parent or a non-parent involved in a custody case, you need experienced legal representation. Contact our divorce and family law firm today for a free consultation by calling 631-923-1910.
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