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How do courts determine child custody?

While dividing marital property is often stressful, determining who will receive custody of the children can be even more overwhelming for those going through a divorce. If you have filed for divorce or are currently going through the divorce process, you know firsthand the emotions that may arise.

Whether you can negotiate the terms of your custody arrangement through mediation or you wish to leave the decision in the hands of the court, it is important to understand how the process works.

Sole vs. joint custody

Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the situation, the court may choose to implement either sole or joint physical custody, according to the New York courts. With sole custody, the child lives mainly with one parent, and the other parent has scheduled visitation. A joint custody arrangement, on the other hand, occurs when the child lives with both parents. While spending significant time with both parents is often ideal for a child’s growth and wellbeing, it may not be feasible depending on the age of the child and how close the parents live to one another.

Factors to consider

The court often considers several factors before deciding what type of situation is best for the child. Some of these factors include the following:

  • The mental, physical and financial stability of each parent
  • The environment the parent lives in, including community and proximity to school
  • The amount of time each parent spent taking care of the child prior to the divorce
  • If domestic violence or abuse was involved

The court may take into consideration whether there are siblings involved and the relationship the child has with their siblings. In some cases, the court may also ask the child which parent they would prefer to live with.

Keep in mind that the court makes a decision based on the best interests of the child. Furthermore, the arrangement may change as time goes on and life circumstances change.

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