The role of a judge in a custody hearing is to look objectively at the pros and cons of awarding primary custody to each parent. This means that a parent who is better able to present evidence of things like financial stability, consistent employment, and other factors that indicate a good environment for the child will have a better chance of success. A lack of problems with things like mental health issues, substances abuse, and criminal cases will also be helpful, as it indicates that person will be able to provide for the child without sudden lapses judgment and disruptions due to personal issues.

Judges in the state of New York are supposed to create a parenting plan based on the best interests of the child standard, which is used in most states. The website of the state courts provides an outline of these issues. The custody plan and any associated rulings are no longer valid once the child turns 18 years old. However, New York law also divides custody into two separate areas – legal and physical custody.

The difference between legal and physical custody

Legal custody is essentially tied to the ability to make major decisions regarding things like education or healthcare, and it can be done jointly between both parents. However, at times one parent can use their own sole discretion regarding these major life decisions if a judge has awarded legal custody to only one parent.

Physical custody is related to the amount of time the child will live and stay with each parent. This can be split evenly or one parent may be given much more time with the child than the other. The parent with primary custody essentially only has to give the non-custodial parent visitation time that follows the schedule ordered by a court.

The best interests of the child

New York does not use a standard definition for the best interests of the child. This means that judges have a wide degree of latitude to make these decisions. An experienced custody attorney in your area may have some advice about a particular judge’s personality and their preferences based on experience in the local courts. The state only gives them guidance by saying that health and safety should be the two main concerns guiding a judge’s decision. According to the local government, the primary factors used to determine these interests may include:

  • The previous history of which parent has had custody and care taking duties
  • Parenting skills and related training or experience in treating any medical conditions or other special needs the child may have
  • Whether each parent will be able to maintain their physical and mental health for the duration of the child’s life until age 18
  • Work schedules and other commitments
  • The ability of the parents to exist peacefully and follow court orders properly

Get help from a custody lawyer in your area

If you have an upcoming custody hearing or any other family law issues in Nassau County New York, you can be assisted by an experienced attorney. The Law Offices of David L. Martin Esq. have been representing people like you for almost 30 years.