Factoring in the “Best Interests of the Child”
If you have made the decision to file for divorce, you may be wondering how the court is going to decide on the matter of child custody. In New York, the courts are required to put the best interests of the children first, even above the parents’ wishes. While the court will take a number of different factors into consideration when making this decision, they will always defer to the “best interests standard.”
When awarding child custody, the court will consider:
- Each parent’s ability to care and provide for the child
- The physical and mental well-being of both parents
- The child’s expressed wishes (depending on their age)
- The amount of time each parent can spend with the child
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse in the family
- Each parent’s ability to cooperate with each other
In most cases, the court will favor a shared custody arrangement—as this is usually to the benefit of both parents, as well as the child. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that the time will be split 50/50, both parents will have the opportunity to share in the responsibility of raising the child. Family courts tend to stray away from awarding sole custody unless one parent has proven to be an unfit guardian.
Can I Change an Existing Child Custody Arrangement?
Once the court has issued a final custody order, you can request that it be modified any time thereafter. However, you must be able to prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances, and that a modification to the existing arrangement would be in the best interests of your child. If the other parent develops a substance abuse problem, for example, you could petition for a modification.