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How the courts decide what is in the child’s best interests

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | FAMILY LAW - Child Custody

For child custody cases in New York, the deciding factor is the best interests of the child. Generally, this is what both parents will have in mind as well as the court. The problem is that not all parties may be in agreement on what the “best interests of the child means.

There is no single definition of this term, but the court does consider numerous factors before coming to a ruling or signing off on a custody agreement. Outlined below are two key aspects that family courts in New York consider.

The child’s safety

First and foremost, the court will consider the safety of the child. For example, if either parent has a history of domestic abuse, violence or substance abuse, then the custody order will reflect this.

In some cases, it may be necessary for the court to order supervised visitation, even if only for a temporary period. This is an arrangement that allows the child to maintain a bond with their parent, but in a safe and controlled environment. Once the parent has shown that they don’t pose a safety risk, then the court may consider allowing other forms of unsupervised visitation.

The child’s routine

If one parent has been responsible for bathing, dressing, feeding and taking the child to school each day, then this represents a stable routine. Stability is one of the key factors that the family court considers in terms of the best interests of the child.

Generally, the less upheaval, the better. For instance, a court may prefer the child to live with the primary caregiver rather than move out of state with a parent who has not taken care of the daily routine before.

Other factors that the family court will consider include:

  • Financial stability
  • Physical and mental health of both parents and child
  • Educational opportunities
  • Where the child’s siblings live
  • The preferences of the child

Having experienced legal guidance will help you as you work toward a custody agreement that’s in your child’s best interests.