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New York Child Custody Laws

Family law matters generally fall under state jurisdiction, including custody. Most U.S. states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (PDF), which fosters legal cooperation with respect to multi-state custody cases. New York child custody laws comply with the Act, while also allowing grandparent visitation rights and joint custody.

The following summary chart highlights the basics of New York child custody laws and you can find more in-depth information below.

Code Section Dom. Rel. §240
Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted 1977
Joint Custody an Option? Yes, Dom. Rel. §240
Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized? Yes, Dom. Rel. §240(1)
Child's Own Wishes Considered? Yes

Types of Child Custody

There are two basic types of child custody in New York, and each comes in two forms.

Legal Custody

A parent is said to have legal custody of a child when that parent makes the important decisions in the child’s life. Some of those decisions include education, religion, and medical care. It is common for parents to share legal custody. In this case, the parents will have to discuss decisions about these issues, although one may have the final say.

Physical Custody

When a child lives with a parent, that parent has physical custody. Although shared physical custody was once popular, a more common approach today is for one parent to have the child during the week, and the other parent watches the child during the weekend.

Sole and Joint Custody

When only one parent has a type of custody, it is called sole custody. When parents share custody, it’s called joint custody.

How a Child Custody Decision is Made in New York

Child custody is always determined by what is in the “best interest of the child.” This is called the best interest of the child standard. New York courts take a number of factors into consideration when deciding on child custody, including:

  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child;
  • Each parent’s mental health and physical wellbeing;
  • Any history of domestic violence in the family;
  • The parents’ work schedules;
  • The child’s desires, depending on the child’s age;
  • The parents’ ability to cooperate with each other;

Grandparent Visitation Rights in New York

New York is one of the few states to allow grandparents and other nonparents to petition a court for visitation rights. The process is very similar to when a parent may petition for child custody or visitation. The grandparent or nonparent will have to present their case for the court, and argue that it is in the child’s best interest to have them in their lives. Siblings may also petition for visitation this way.

If you would like to know more about child custody in New York, there are many attorneys in your area with child custody experience who may be able to help.

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