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If you are undergoing a child custody dispute in the Staten Island area or anywhere else in the state of New York, you need a highly experienced and skilled lawyer to help guide you through the hearing process and maximize the chances that you’ll receive a favorable outcome from the presiding judge.
Unlike other areas of the law, such as civil and criminal cases, all child custody hearings in the state of New York are handled by the Family Courts. This arm of the state judicial system has a number of quirks that make it a unique and challenging environmnet in which to practice law.
Unlike almost every other area of the legal system, which seeks to reconstruct past events to establish facts related to the guilt, innocent, liability or lack of it of the defendant, in the Family Courts, the chief goal is to establish what is likely to happen in the future. The main goal of the Family Court system is to create the best future environment for children. For this reason, there are a number of unique aspects to operating in this area of jurisprudence.
One example of this is the fact that expert testimony is often given a very heavy weighting in the decisions taken in Family Courts. In child custody hearings, character witnesses and things such as employment histories, arrest records and past alcohol and drug problems, which would normally only be used at sentencing in criminal cases, will, in effect, be used directly in the decision of who will win or lose. This means that a good lawyer can add a tremendous amount, through their ability to control what evidence is introduced, who gets to testify and how the courtroom narrative plays out. As valuable as a good criminal lawyer is in deciding the final outcome of a case, in child custody hearings, a lawyer who is a specialist in the Family Courts may be even more valuable.
New York family law recognized two main categories of custody. The first is known as physical custody. This is normally granted to the parent who continues to live in the marital domicile or with whom the child spends the majority of the time living. Although it is possible for a court to grant joint physical custody, it is not common in practice. This is due to the simple fact that most cases appearing before the Family Courts involve couples that have physically separated and now live in different residences.
The other type of custody is what’s known as legal custody. This involves the right of the custodial parent to participate in all decisions that may affect the well being of the child. It also entails the ability of the custodial parent to veto any decision by the other parent that may adversely affect the life of the child.
Because of the right of absolute veto power conferred by legal custody, the Family Courts are not enthusiastic about granting joint custody in any case where there is any demonstrated level of contention or outright animosity between the parties. This is because these situations often lead to endless deadlock on every parenting decision, requiring the intervention of the Family Court on even small matters.
However, even if one parent is denied all legal custody, this does not mean that the parent has no rights with respect to the child. Almost all parents are allowed visitation rights to see their children under certain circumscribed conditions. And all parents have the right to petition the Family Court if a decision contrary to the well being of their child is made by the other parent.