One of the most contentious issues in a contested divorce between a couple that has had children together is who gets to have custody of the kids. Both parents are often convinced that they will be the better parent in the long run, and the divorce proceeding has often convinced them that the other spouse is unfit for the job.
This is a common source of disagreement, so divorce courts have determined a set method of handling who will get custody of the children after a divorce. This involves determining the best interests of the child.
Different Kinds of Custody
Being granted custody of your child after a divorce is not an “all or nothing” ruling. In nearly all cases, the divorced parents of a child are granted joint legal custody, which allows them both to make important life decisions that center on the child. Sole legal custody, which only allows one parent to make important decisions about how the child is brought up, is often only awarded when one parent is deemed unfit to be a parent.
In addition to legal custody of your child after a divorce, there is also physical custody. This involves who the child lives with, following a divorce. The parent that is awarded primary physical custody of their child, however, is often subject to the other parent’s visitation rights.
Custody Often Hinges on the Best Interest of the Child
Unless one parent is deemed by the court to be unfit to care for the child, courts look to the best interests of the child to determine custody issues. While there used to be a strong presumption that the mother of the child would get custody, in today’s world that is no longer the case. Now, courts try to facilitate a healthy relationship between the child and both of his or her parents.
To make this happen, divorce courts in New York look to all of the circumstances in the case to determine what is best for the child, paying particular attention to the child’s happiness, safety, and health.
Courts Try to Keep Siblings Together
One of the important aspects of a custody arrangement is a court’s interest in keeping siblings together. Divorce courts in New York have found that splitting them apart can create needless tension in the family unit, and destroy a potentially worthwhile sibling relationship in the future.
Preference of the Child
If the child is old and mature enough, courts will consider the child’s preference when determining custody arrangements. However, in the past, courts have found that this leads to parents coaching their children to request that they be given custody. Therefore, courts pay close attention to the motive behind the child’s wishes and have been known to frown upon parental coaching to try to manipulate the child’s preference.
History of Abuse
In some situations, there is a history of domestic violence between the parents. In these cases, courts note the past history of abuse into consideration when settling a child’s custody arrangement, often penalizing the parent at fault for the abuse.
Numerous Other Factors Play a Part
Determining what is in the best interest of the child for a custody arrangement requires the court to look to all of the factors at play. Any listing of factors would, therefore, be only be a sampling of what a court would consider. However, some of the facts that courts have noted in the past include how well each parent could provide for the child, the needs of the child and the ability of each parent to provide for them, as well as the emotional connection between the child and each parent in the past.
Appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem
In some of the more hotly-contested divorce proceedings, courts have appointed lawyers for the children involved, to make sure that their interests and well-being was adequately represented in the case. These attorneys are called guardians ad litem, and work to advocate for the child, just as your divorce attorney works to advocate for you during the divorce proceeding.
Strong Advocacy is the Best Way to Get the Custody Outcome You Want
With so many factors at play in determining what the best interests of your child are, having a family law attorney with you to argue on your behalf can make a huge difference in the outcome. Knowing how to make the most out of the factors that are in your favor, and downplay the ones that are not, is what family law attorneys like those at the Bombardo Law Office, P.C. do for a living. Contact us online or at (315) 488-5544.