New York Child Custody: Laws, Requirements and Custody Hearings

Divorce can be an emotional and life-changing process, one which couples hope they won't experience when they first say their vows or are on their honeymoon. However, couples often grow apart and need to take their lives in different directions. As a result, a significant number of New York couples file for divorce each year in hopes of obtaining a fresh start.

Before that can be accomplished, however, husbands and wives must discuss many important items, such as who will receive what property and whether any alimony payments will be necessary.

Child Custody Hearings and Requirements

Divorce is further complicated when couples have one or more children. For example, parents must address the difficult topic of which parent will provide the best living situation for their child. Oftentimes parents agree to work together under a joint custody plan (preferred by most courts), but occasionally an agreement cannot be reached and court intervention is required.

To request custody of a child, either a parent or someone with a substantial relationship to the child must file a petition in New York's Family Court system. The parties must then prepare themselves to present evidence at a child custody hearing.

During the hearing - assuming no prior agreement can be reached - a court will consider evidence from multiple sources and will try to determine what situation is in a child's best interest. Parents may present their case, a child (if old enough) may give his or her opinion and often social service agencies or court appointed representatives are allowed to present information for the court to consider.

The factors a court will typically consider before issuing a custody order include:

  • Residences of the parents in relation to a child's school, friends and other activities
  • Mental and physical health of the child and the parents
  • Parents' current employment, income and job history
  • Whether there has been any history of abuse
  • Age of the child

Courts will also consider special factors as each family is unique and circumstances vary from case to case. However, it is important to be fully prepared and to know what to expect during custody hearings. As a result, it is recommended that anyone going through a divorce discuss their situation with an experienced family law attorney, especially since professional representation can often make the difference between favorable and unfavorable custody orders.