Custody and Divorce Proceedings
For married couples, custody matters are usually settled during divorce proceedings. For unmarried parents or married couples who are separated but not ready to divorce, a family court judge can review and hear all available information and witnesses and issue an order based on the best interests of the child.
Mediation has become a popular tool for parents who disagree on custody issues. A specially trained mediator meets with the parents and facilitates conversations as a neutral party with the goal of attaining an agreement. Alternatively, you should seek counsel and negotiating expertise from a seasoned child custody lawyer in Rochester. In any event, a knowledgeable custody attorney can guide you through the process.
Additional Issues for Consideration
Courts consider various factors related to both parents when determining what is in the best interests of a child. These include but are not limited to:
- Capacity and availability to care for their child
- Job situation and available time to devote to caring for the child
- Financial and domestic stability
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Suitability of living arrangements
- Geographic proximity to school, friends, etc.
- The child’s wishes, if age-appropriate
In certain cases, New York Domestic Relations Law §240 and Family Court Act §71 and §72 allow grandparents—as well as others who have a close relationship with the child—to petition for visitation rights. At a family court hearing, the parties can offer evidence to demonstrate that visitation is in the child’s best interests and that denying visitation would be detrimental to the child.
Child Custody Modification and Enforcement
Child custody orders in Rochester are often subject to modification. To be successful in achieving such a modification, you must prove a significant and material change in your circumstances—or those of the child’s other parent—that renders it in the child’s best interest to change the terms of the order or affects your ability to care for the child. Common examples include a significant change in work schedules or the loss of a job.
If a parent violates the terms of the custody order, such as refusing to return the child at the end of a scheduled visitation, the other parent may institute proceedings for custody enforcement. The violator could be charged with contempt of court or possibly face kidnapping charges under Article 135 of New York Penal Law.