Custody and Visitation
Child custody laws in NY distinguish between legal and physical custody of a child.
Legal custody refers to the responsibility to make major life decisions for a child. Physical custody refers to where a child will primarily reside.
When determining the type of custody arrangement that is in a child’s best interests, courts look at some of the following factors:
Which parent has been the child’s primary caretaker
The quality of each parent’s home environment
The parenting skills of each parent, their strengths and weaknesses, and their ability to provide for the child’s special needs, if any
The mental and physical health of the parents, including whether either parent drinks or uses drugs
Whether there has been domestic violence in the family
The work schedules and child care plans of each parent
The child’s relationships with brothers, sisters, and members of the rest of the family
If the child is old enough, which parent the child wants to live with
Each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent and to encourage a relationship with the other parent, when it is safe to do so
Sole and Joint Custody
Both legal and physical custody may be sole or joint. In joint legal custody, the parents make major decisions about the child together, such as decisions regarding education, health, and religion, while the smaller, day-to-day decisions are made by the parent who is physically caring for the child at the time. In sole legal custody, only one parent has the right to make major decisions about the child.
If one parent is awarded sole physical custody, the other parent is almost always given access to the child, with courts aiming to provide “frequent and meaningful” parenting time with the child.
Parenting time may be unsupervised, supervised, or therapeutically supervised. This means that even an abusive parent can get supervised daytime visitation with his or her child. Courts also may order visitation to a parent who is incarcerated, and will weigh many factors before making such a ruling.