Westchester County Child Custody & Visitation Attorney
Experienced Family Law Lawyer
There is no question that a divorce can significantly impact you and your family. Child custody & visitation battles can get contentious. At Riebling & Payton, PLLC, our Westchester lawyers understand the emotional and legal challenges that result after a divorce proceeding. Because matters of this nature can be both sensitive and complex, our goal is to help establish a plan that represents the best interests of your child, while also ensuring your rights as a parent are protected.
Every family is unique, as is every visitation and custody case.If you need legal representation regarding your child, don’t hesitate to contact our office. We will take the time to listen and understand your circumstance so we can provide guidance in your legal process. As most people are unfamiliar with child custody & visitation laws, we recommend you reach out to us as soon as possible.
Call (914) 712-6878 to get started on your case and schedule a free consultation today!
New York Custody & Visitation Laws
In New York, custody must be established in cases of divorce, as well as those involving parents who were never married but share a child together. It’s also important to note that custody & visitation are separate matters but are usually determined during the same hearing.
There are several types of child custody in New York:
- Legal custody: meaning one or both parents has complete authority to make decisions for the child. The non-custodial parent may receive education and medical information, but they are not allowed to make decisions regarding these matters.
- Physical custody: refers to where and with whom the child will live.
- Joint custody: there can be both joint physical and joint legal custody. This means two parents share custody and make authoritative decisions together; the child can split time at each parent’s home, for instance, living with one parent one week and the other parent the next week; and both parents must communicate with each other to accommodate the child’s needs.
- Sole custody: only one parent has both physical and legal custody, and that parent holds full rights to the child.
- Third-party custody: this will only occur if a child is under custody of a third party, i.e. non-biological parents.
In most cases, the court will rule in favor of the child maintaining a relationship with both parents. If one parent wins sole custody, the other will be granted visitation with the child, unless there is reason to believe the parent should not have visitation rights (for example, they are considered a danger to the child’s safety and well-being). Either parent, sibling, or grandparent can seek visitation. However, it is ultimately up to the court to determine who is allowed visitation (based on the child’s best interest).
Modifying Child Custody and Visitation Orders in New York Family Courts
Establishing a custody and visitation order in Family Court is always an important first step in looking out for the best interests of a child. However, as many parents learn, over time parents may find themselves in situations where their custody order no longer works for their families. In New York, custody orders can be modified at any time in certain limited circumstances.
Is New York A 50/50 Child Custody State?
New York is not a 50/50 custody state in that there is no automatic presumption that custody will be a 50/50 split between the two parents. Should it be up to the court to determine custody, the court will weigh many factors in determining custody arrangements. Both legal custody and physical custody must be addressed. Legal custody refers to the power to make important life decisions about a child and how the child is raised. It is common for legal custody to be evenly split between the parents so that both have an equal say in the child’s upbringing. In some cases, however, one parent may have the last word on legal custody issues. Shared physical custody, also referred to as joint custody, is, generally speaking, preferred so that the child gets time with both parents. The specific division of parenting time, however, will depend on the court’s evaluation of what would be in the best interest of the child.
When a Custody Order Can be Modified in New York
At Riebling & Payton, PLLC, we help families modify existing custody and visitation orders to accommodate changes in circumstances. A change of circumstance is a necessary component of a Family Court Petition to modify a custody order, and they include:
- Change in finances
- Parental relocation
- Changes in the health of the parties
- Abuse or neglect
- By request of a child 12 years old or older
Modifying a Custody Order in Cases of Abuse, Neglect, or Abandonment
In order to modify a New York custody order in New York in circumstances where abuse, neglect, or abandonment are alleged, the requesting party must submit an affidavit to the court that details all the facts and allegations of the abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Modification of the custody order will be approved if the facts alleged in the affidavit establish: (1) the modification of the custody order would be in the best interest of the child, (2) the child is in danger due to unsafe living conditions or by the parent, or (3) the child has been abandoned by the parent.
Modifying a Custody Order in Cases of Parental Relocation
If the parent who has physical custody of the child decides to make a significant move, that relocation may have a major impact on the life of the child and could rise to the level of a substantial change in circumstance to modify a custody and visitation order. In these instances, the family court will encourage the parents to come to an agreement that would accommodate the relocation. However, any agreement would allow both parents to continue to have significant contact with their children. If no such agreement is reached, the court will reach its own decision based on what arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
Modifying a Custody Order by Special Request of the Child
In some cases, when a child over the age of 12 has a strong preference as to who their custodial parent will be, New York Law allows the child to make their preferences known to Family Court Judge. It should be noted that the child’s request is not determinative, their wishes are taken into consideration by the Judge when deciding whether or not to modify the custody order.
How to Modify a New York Custody and Visitation Order
Modifying a custody order is a serious matter that requires careful consideration and appropriate drafting and filing of a Petition to Modify an Existing Order of Custody and Visitation. In addition to preparing the proper petition, other considerations include selecting the appropriate venue (court) for the action and service of the petition. Generally, it is often in the best interests of the parties and the child to consult with counsel familiar with the process and courts.
How Riebling & Payton, PLLC Can Help
Riebling & Payton, PLLC has the background and experience necessary to fight child custody & visitation battles. We use strategic methods to maximize your chance at the best possible result based on the circumstances of your case. We can also help file a petition to change custody or visitation rights so you can restore your rights as a parent.