Westchester Child Custody Lawyer
Child custody matters are often emotional for everyone involved. Our child custody lawyers in Westchester regularly work with individuals who are involved in disputes trying to maintain or seek custody of children, offering dedicated assistance and skilled legal guidance every step of the way.
If you live in Westchester or the surrounding areas and have questions about child custody, our family lawyers could help you understand how custody is determined, and how New York law may impact your situation.
Understanding Child Custody Matters
In New York, the age of majority is 18. When parents who have children under the age of 18 divorce, separate, or do not live together, the court may be petitioned to issue a custody order. Child custody cases are typically initiated in the Family Court in the county where the child resides, and the parent who has custody of a child is essentially responsible for daily decisions regarding the child’s care and well-being.
The issue of custody is divided into two categories: legal and physical. The court may decide to grant either sole or joint custody in one or both of these categories.
Legal custody pertains to the right to participate in major decisions in a child’s life. Religious upbringing, education, and medical treatment are examples of issues that fall under legal custody. If parents are awarded joint legal custody, these and other important decisions regarding the child will be made by the two parents together. If both parents are found mentally and emotionally fit, it is likely that the court will grant joint legal custody unless their relationship is so contentious that making decisions together will not be possible.
Physical custody concerns where the child will actually live. When a parent is granted sole physical custody, the child will spend the majority of their time living with that parent. Physical custody may also be shared so that the child will spend the same amount of time living with both parents.
To preserve a child’s relationship with both parents, a noncustodial parent will usually be granted visitation or access rights so that they can have scheduled time to spend with their child. It is usually in the child’s best interest to be allowed to spend time with both parents, but in some extreme cases, there may be reasons that a parent should not be allowed to have visitation rights.
When it comes to determining child custody, the court looks to the best interests of the child. As such, the question of who will be awarded custody is largely determined based on the facts of each individual case before the court. The court will carefully evaluate many factors such as:
- The child’s wishes
- The health of the parents
- Domestic violence
- Parenting skills
- Drug or substance abuse
- Stability and quality of the parent’s living environment
- The parents’ work schedules
- Location of any siblings
- The willingness and ability to support the child’s relationship with the other parent
Custody may not necessarily be granted to a child’s parent if they are unavailable or unsuitable. In these and other such situations, stepparents, grandparents, and other family members may also seek and potentially be granted custody of a child.
Changing a Custody Order
Custody orders are not necessarily permanent. Parties are permitted to file a petition to modify the terms of an existing custody agreement. Parties typically pursue modifications to custody orders when there has been a significant change in their situation.
Guidance from Compassionate Child Custody Attorneys
Our knowledgeable and compassionate child custody attorneys in Westchester understand the long-term impact that custody decisions leave on families. We make every effort to maintain the close parent-child relationship whenever possible and appropriate. Call our office for more information and to schedule a meeting with an experienced attorney today.