Westchester Family Law Attorney Discusses Child Custody: Parents vs. Non-Parents


The Rights of Parents vs. The Rights of Non-Parents in Westchester, NY

Typically, only parents have the right to seek custody of their children and they will usually have a superior right of custody over any non-parent.

In order for a non-parent's claim or petition for custody to even be considered, the non-parent must demonstrate that there are extraordinary circumstances that would justify an award of custody. Such extraordinary circumstances include, but are not limited to, surrender, abandonment, persistent neglect, unfitness or other like extraordinary factor.

Once there is a determination that the requisite extraordinary circumstances exist, then and only then may the court consider granting custody to the non parent. But even then, it still must be proven that such a custody award would be in the child's best interest.

Physical Custody and Legal Custody in Westchester

Physical or residential custody refers to where the child lives. Legal custody refers to which parent has the legal authority to make decisions about and involving the child.

Joint Custody in Westchester County

Joint custody or joint legal custody gives both parents equal decision making authority as to major decisions for the child. It does not mean how much time the child spends with each of the parents. Decisions which impact the child include: the residence of the child, medical and dental treatment, education, childcare, religious education, extra-curricular activities, summer camp and recreation.

Since joint custody affords equal decision making, it is important that the parents be able to communicate and that there is an appropriate means to resolve any disputes on issues that the parents cannot work out between them selves.

How Do the Westchester Courts Determine Custody Awards?

Courts in Westchester County apply a "best interest" standard which is dictated by New York law. In making the best interests determination, the courts routinely consider the following (among other) factors:

  1. The parental guidance the custodial parent provides for the child;
  2. The ability of each parent to provide for the child's emotional and intellectual development;
  3. The financial status and ability of each parent to provide for the child;
  4. The home environment;
  5. The effect that an award of custody to one parent might have on the child's relationship with the other parent;
  6. Age, Disability, Physical and Mental Health of each parent;
  7. Alcohol & Drug Use;
  8. Domestic Violence;
  9. Existing informal Custodial Agreements;
  10. Existing written Custody Agreements;
  11. The finances of each parent;
  12. Any findings of child neglect or abuse;
  13. Mental health evaluations and recommendations;
  14. Child preferences;
  15. The possible effect of a custodial change on the children;
  16. The effect of a separation of siblings;

Hiring a Proven Westchester Divorce and Family Law Attorney is Important

Dealing with the stress of fighting a child custody battle may make it difficult to make the decisions that will best protect your custodial rights in Westchester County, NY. Do not make the mistake of trying to make these crucial decisions without the assistance of an experienced child custody attorney. Contact the Westchester family law lawyers of Proto, Sachs & Brown, LLP for a free consultation. We will discuss your options and help you get the results that you want.

Call (914) 840-5104.