Suffolk County Child Custody Lawyer
An experienced and knowledgeable child custody lawyer is essential during the difficult and stressful times of custody litigation. At the Law Office of Louis L. Sternberg, we represent clients to ensure that the best interests of the children are protected.
Child Custody, under New York law, has two components – physical custody and legal custody.
- Physical custody refers to the right to have the child or children reside with the parent. Physical custody is sometimes referred to as residential custody.
- Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding certain aspects of the child’s upbringing such as education and medical care.
Factors in Determining Child Custody
The standard of determination in a custody case is the “best interests of the child.” This is an intentionally broad standard that leaves the court with tremendous discretion. In determining the best interests of the child, the courts must look at the totality of the circumstances, which is, again, very broad in scope. The Family Court Act and Domestic Relations Law list only domestic violence as a consideration in determining custody but subsequent case law provides additional factors including:
- Which parent is the primary caregiver?
- Which parent provides the child with more stability?
- Drug abuse or alcohol abuse
- Mental health and physical health
- Psychological bond between parent and child
- Work schedules of the parents
- Parental Alienation / false allegations by one parent against the other parent
- The child’s preference (the amount of weight this is given increases with the age of the child)
Sole Custody, Joint Custody and Split Custody
The terms sole custody, joint custody and split custody are frequently used in family court and divorce litigation. Additionally, they are frequently used incorrectly so it is essential that parties know exactly what each term means.
Sole Custody describes situations in which only one parent has the right to make the major decisions for the children. The other parent has authority to make any such decisions or even to be consulted on such decisions.
Joint custody (or joint legal custody) occurs when both parents have legal custody of the child (the right to make certain decisions about the child’s upbringing). Even in situations of joint custody, only one parent is usually designated as the parent with physical custody. Often, this means that the parents must consult with each other before making any major decision regarding the child’s medical needs, education or religious upbringing. Generally, joint custody is ordered only when the parties agree to it but, in exceedingly rare cases, a court may award joint custody to the parents after a trial.
Split custody occurs when the parties have multiple children and one or more of the children live with each parent. For example, Parent A has physical custody of one or more of the children while Parent B has physical custody of one or more of the children. Split custody is heavily disfavored in New York.
Regardless of arrangements of sole custody, joint custody or split custody, the non-custodial parent retains the right to seek visitation with the child or children.
Parent against a third-party
Absent of a showing of “extraordinary circumstances,” a parent will always retain custody over a third-party. In the case of Bennett v. Jeffreys, The New York Court of Appeals has stated that the “State may not deprive a parent of the custody of a child absent surrender, abandonment, persisting neglect, unfitness or other like extraordinary circumstances.”
Suffolk Child Custody Attorney
At the Law Office of Louis L. Sternberg, we understand the delicate nature of these issues and the emotional toll such disputes can have on our clients and their children. We understand that nothing is more important to mothers and fathers than their children.
We are committed to helping clients not only accomplish their goals but also do so in a way that protects their future relationships with their children. We take a personal approach to every case, offering tailor-made solutions to clients’ problems. These are important and complicated issues and it is always best to contact a family law attorney.
We offer evening and weekend consultations to meet the needs of our clients. Call us at 516-669-3295 to speak with a Suffolk custody lawyer and to schedule your free consultation.