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Issues You Might See When Deciding Legal Custody of Your Children

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 overcome them.

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 final decision.

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” decision making.

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.

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