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If you are facing a contentious child custody dispute, you need to get the most experienced and skilled lawyers you can find on your side. In the state of New York, the Family Court system is a complex and often difficult process to navigate. And child custody law is a unique area that requires specialization and a high degree of knowledge.
Many parents make the mistake of assuming that Family Court proceedings are not something worth taking seriously. Such attitudes often prove to have disastrous consequences, as Family Court rulings are considered to be almost absolute. In New York State, Family Court rulings, especially those pertaining to child custody cases, are almost never overturned by appeals courts. And these rulings often have lasting effects, with Family Court orders lasting until affected children reach the age of majority, which is 18 in New York.
All of this means that it is absolutely imperative that you find the right lawyer to help you through your child custody hearing. With solid legal representation, you can shift the odds in your favor and maximize the chances of a resolution that will be satisfactory to you. Without good counsel, there is little chance that you will prevail.
Throughout the state of New York, as well as many other jurisdictions across the country, there are two recognized categories of custody. The first is referred to as physical custody, sometimes called residential custody. This form of custody is simply used to describe the parent with whom the child will be primarily residing. Once a separation takes place, which has happened in the vast majority of cases that come before the Family Courts, one parent will be granted sole physical custody and the other will not enjoy this legal right.
But this is not terribly important. The parent who does not have sole physical custody will almost always enjoy the right to visitation. This right to visitation can include the child living with the non-custodial parent for a large number of days each week or month. Still, the parent who continues living in the family domicile where the child has been living will likely be favored to get physical custody. But there are no hard and fast rules. If you are intent on retaining or newly acquiring physical custody of a child, the best move you can possibly make is to hire an experienced attorney.
The second type of custody is referred to as legal custody. Legal custody involves the ability of a parent to have final say in major life decisions affecting the child.
These include but are not limited to matters of religion, education and healthcare. A parent can be granted sole or joint legal custody, but even if a parent has been denied legal custody, they will still often have recourse to potentially veto decisions that they believe are not consistent with the child’s best interest. This is usually done through the Family Court, which can issue injunctions if a child is being subjected to decisions by one parent that are deemed to be potentially harmful.
While the court has the discretion to grant joint legal custody, because of the absolute power of one parent to veto any decision the other parent takes with regards to the child’s circumstances, joint legal custody is typically only granted in non-contentious proceedings. This is because parents that don’t get along will usually cause deadlock on nearly every major decision taken on behalf of the child. For this reason, in contentious divorce and custody hearings, one parent will usually be granted sole legal custody with the court overseeing the process.