Legal custody of children is an important aspect in any
child custody dispute, in either
divorce proceedings (matrimonial) or
family court proceedings. To be properly prepared for the legal road ahead, it is important to
understand common issues regarding legal custody, and who can help you
Sole Legal Custody in New York
Sole legal custody exists when someone has “full” or “sole”
custody, meaning that the child lives with that parent and that parent
has full decision-making authority for the child. In this situation, that
parent is the only person that has the authority to make decisions for
the child. Typically, that person has both residential and legal custody
of the child. Often, it is understood that the legal custodial parent
should “consult” with the other parent before a decision is
made. Ultimately, though, the parent with sole custody gets to make the
In the event a parent with sole legal custody wishes to relocate with a
child, the parent still needs to get the permission of the court or the
other parent before
relocating with the child. It is advised that before relocation takes place, the parent seeking
relocation should approach this issue well in advance of moving.
The sole custodial parent may have the final say but there are situations
where their decision can be overridden if not in the child’s best
interests. The court’s discretion will always be a factor.
Joint Legal Custody in New York
Joint legal custody is encouraged as the primary remedy for the parents,
but the parents must be able to show that they have a relatively stable
and amicable relationship, and that they can behave in a mature and civilized fashion.
Importantly, New York State Domestic Relations Law 240 states that neither
parent has any overriding right to custody. This wasn’t always the
case in New York, as previously the mother had a legal advantage over
the father. That legal policy in New York has changed to now determine
what is in the child’s best interests, regardless of the gender
of the parents in contest. Furthermore, parents of a child born out of
wedlock have equal rights by default.
Decision Making in Legal Custody Cases
In a joint legal custody arrangement, the parents can agree to have full
decision-making authority on different aspects of the child’s life.
For example, medical and educational issues could be solved together.
This type of arrangement is called “Spheres of Influence”
Parents in a joint legal custody arrangement can also agree to a professional
acting as a “tiebreaker” before going back to court to resolve
a dispute. This is typically someone assigned in a final Judgment of Divorce
or Family Court Order, such as a parenting coordinator, mediator, or arbitrator.
Lastly, the child’s wishes can be taken into consideration depending
on the age of the child and maturity level of the child.
Child Custody Lawyers in Westchester County, New York
In any custody dispute, it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney
guide you through the process from start to finish. At Riebling, Proto
& Sachs, LLP, we routinely practice in the courts of Westchester and
the surrounding counties. We are available for a
free initial consultation to get you started on the right foot. Our goal is to obtain results for
our clients through aggressive, reliable representation, both in and out
of the courtroom.
Our main office is located in White Plains but we also operate satellite
offices in Peekskill and Mount Kisco.
Call today at (914) 946-4808.