Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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Preparation is key for your child custody hearing

Though your marriage may be ending, if you are a parent, you may still have a family for which you are responsible. Whenever possible, it is good to be able to make decisions about your children's future in association with their other parent. However, some divorces turn out to be unpleasant affairs, with every step contested.

Arguing over custody of children may be the least pleasant part of the entire process. By going in prepared to stand up for your rights, and with an understanding of what might transpire, you stand a better chance of being awarded custody of your kids.

New York child custody basics

There are two kinds of custody in the State of New York: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the rights to make life choices for a child. For example, a parent with legal custody can choose where the child will attend school and in what religion he or she will be brought up. Medical decisions also fall under the purview of legal custody. Frequently, both parents share legal custody.

Physical custody has to do with where the child resides on a regular basis. Typically, one parent (the custodial parent) has primary physical custody, while the other parent will usually have access or the right to some form of visitation.

As a parent, you have the right to ask for custody of your child during a divorce.

What a judge considers before awarding custody

When two parents go to court to have the issue of child custody settled during a divorce, there are several factors for a judge to consider before making a decision. Among these are:

  • Which parent has traditionally been the primary care-giver
  • Mental, physical and financial stability of each parent
  • Quality of home environment each parent offers
  • Ability of each parent to support the child emotionally and intellectually
  • Willingness of a parent to allow the other parent's involvement in the child's life

Should there be any history of domestic violence or abuse, a judge will certainly use that information before issuing a ruling.

Be prepared with the support you will need

There is nothing wrong with asserting your rights as a parent and requesting an award of custody of your children. Your preparedness and determination will play a large part in the outcome, however. Having the right support in place may also make a difference.

Child custody hearings can be protracted and challenging. You may find it helpful to have a lawyer assisting with the formulation and presentation of your case. A lawyer who has experience in family court will ensure all of your rights are protected while fighting to achieve the best possible outcome for both you and your children.

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