Child Custody Lawyer in Garden City, New York

Child custody is one of the most emotional issues in a divorce. When parents are unable to reach an agreement on custodial arrangements for their child, then custody will be determined through Family Court or as a part of a divorce action, generally decided in Supreme Court. As with all states, the state of New York bases its decision regarding custody on the best interests of the child. The court presumes that having regular contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child, absent evidence to the contrary. Decades ago, mothers were much more likely to get custody of the couple’s child than the father, based on more traditional gender roles—the father typically worked, while the mother stayed home with the children. This is no longer valid in today’s society, where women made up 46.9 percent of the workforce in 2018.

If the parents are unable to come to a mutually acceptable agreement regarding child custody, then this very important decision will be made for them, based on a number of factors. There are two parts to custody—legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody involves decisions for the child on such matters as healthcare, religion, education, and extracurricular activities. Physical custody refers to where the child will live. As noted, these decisions can be quite emotional for parents; having an experienced, knowledgeable, compassionate family law attorney from The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, can make a huge difference for parents going through a custody case or other type of family law issue. Attorney Katherine Ryan makes the process of divorce and custody as painless as possible for her clients while ensuring their rights and future are properly protected.

Joint or Sole Custody?

Custody decisions in the state are generally made based on the following factors:

  • The parenting skills of each parent;
  • The ability of each parent to properly care for the child;
  • The ability of each parent to provide stability for the child;
  • Which parent has historically provided the most care for the child;
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate with one another;
  • The mental health of each parent;
  • The child’s relationship with siblings and other family members;
  • The physical health of each parent;
  • Depending on the child’s age, the child’s desires;
  • Any history of domestic violence in the family, and
  • The work schedule of each parent.

Joint legal custody would mean the parents would be required to consult and agree on all major decisions involving the child. One parent could be awarded sole legal custody and would then have sole discretion in making those decisions but would still advise the other parent of his or her decisions. Joint physical custody means the parents would split physical custody of the child 50/50, or as equally as possible. Split physical or residential custody is increasingly popular.

Unless the parents live very close to one another—and get along really well—joint physical custody usually results in schoolbooks, clothing, and backpacks being left at one parent’s house and needed at the other. Equal parenting time or joint residential custody requires full cooperation and great communication between parents.  More often, one parent is deemed the residential custodial parent of the child, meaning the child primarily lives with that parent while the other parent receives visitation or parenting time. Residential custody is also the mechanism by which a child’s school district is determined in the State of New York.

The most common custody arrangement is joint legal custody, with one parent having primary physical custody and the other parent having regular parenting time. In this type of custody arrangement, the parent with visitation or parenting time, sees the child regularly, perhaps picking up the child from school on Friday, and keeping the child over the weekend, returning him or her to school on Monday morning.

For children who are not yet in school, the arrangement may be different, with the child spending a night during the week with the non-custodial parent, and perhaps a night on the weekend. Custodial arrangements can get much more challenging when the child is in junior high or high school. Children usually begin having a social life and are involved in school and extracurricular activities. If the custody arrangement was made when the child was young, it could require some modifications as the child gets older.

In virtually every custody case, particularly those brought in Family Court as opposed to custody cases which are part of a divorce, the court will appoint the child an attorney who will meet with your child and advocate for your child’s wishes (depending on the age of the child). It is unlikely that a younger child’s wishes will carry much weight, however, once a child is twelve or older (and deemed by the court to be sufficiently mature), the child’s wishes regarding where he or she wants to live does carry some weight with the court.

Who Pays Child Support When Both Parents Share Custody?

Under the New York Child Support Standards Act, child support is paid by the non-custodial parent, under the assumption that the custodial parent is already contributing his or her fair share on the child. There is a formula set up by the state, which takes the gross income of each parent (after deductions), then assigns a percentage of financial responsibility to each parent.

Generally speaking, the non-custodial parent’s child support amount will be 17 percent of the combined parental income for one child, 25 percent of the combined parental income for two children, 29 percent of the combined parental income for three children, 31 percent of the combined parental income for four children, and 35 percent of the combined parental income for five children. Income is determined by taking the gross income and subtracting Federal income taxes.

If the parents have a true 50/50 split of physical custody, then the parent with the higher income will be deemed the non-custodial parent and must pay the other parent child support but the amount of child support is subject to modification. Parents are allowed to contractually agree to waive child support from one another in the event of a true 50/50 custody split as long as they provide clear language about how the child’s needs will be met. It is important to note that parenting time and child support are two separate issues; a parent who has not received the child support check may not deny parenting time to the other parent.

What is Child Custody Modification?

A parent who has had a substantial change in circumstances since the custody order may be able to ask for a modification of custody terms. Suppose the non-custodial parent did not oppose the custody agreement because he or she had a job at the time, which required frequent business trips. If that job changed, and business trips were no longer an issue, that parent might want to ask to be the custodial parent or to ask for additional parenting time.

The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C. Can Help with New York Custody Cases

The family law attorneys at The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C., can help parents with a child custody agreement that protects the child, assuring he or she will thrive. Attorney Katherine Ryan provides empathetic, strong representation for New York parents. The sooner a parent plans for a child custody dispute, the better positioned he or she will be to make the most compelling argument to the court. Katherine Ryan represents clients in Garden City, Stewart Manor, New Hyde Park, Mineola, Huntington, Melville, Woodbury, Commack, Smithtown, Syosset, Jericho, Roslyn, and Manhasset.  Contact The Law Office of Katherine Ryan, P.C. today.