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Child Custody & Visitation Rights in New York

Lawyer Serving Long Island, the City of New York, & Westchester County

One of the most important ‑ and contested ‑ aspects of a divorce and in family law is that of child custody and parenting time, also known as visitation. Parents who are going through a custody dispute should obtain a solid understanding of how child custody works. They should know the difference between physical and legal custody of their child(ren) as well as how New York determines issues of custody and visitation if the parties are unable to resolve their differences. It is important to enlist the aggressive representation of a divorce and family law attorney if you are engaged in a custody dispute.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

It is important to understand the concepts of physical versus legal custody, as well as sole custody versus joint custody. Physical custody refers to the actual place where the child lives. The parent with physical custody is said to have residential custody. The parent who does not have residential custody, who is said to be the non-custodial parent, will be entitled to parenting time with their child. Joint physical custody involves an arrangement where both parents equally share parenting time with their child. Legal custody refers to the parent who has the right and responsibility to make important decisions of the child's life, including what school they attend, what medical facility they go to, and how decisions are made regarding religious upbringing and related matters. Joint legal custody is the shared right and responsibility of both parents to make important decisions in their child's life.

In any custody dispute, including cases where a custodial parent seeks to relocate with the child to a different geographic location, the primary determining factor relied upon by the courts is the best interests of the child. Gender will not play a role in determining who is awarded custody of the child. In a typical situation, only parents have the right to seek custody. In any custody dispute, parents have priority rights to custody over non‑parents, such as grandparents. If there are extraordinary circumstances that require the custody of a child to be placed under the guardianship of a party who is not the parent, then grandparents and other individuals can be considered for alternative custody arrangements.

Our attorneys are very experienced in dealing with complicated custody matters. If your custody dispute is resolved with a settlement agreement, we will ensure that your rights are secured and protected with the best interests of your child as the paramount consideration. If a settlement cannot be reached in your custody dispute, our attorneys have a wealth of experience in custody litigation, having successfully represented clients in custody trials throughout the State.