At Thomas Weiss & Associates, we have helped hundreds of clients through many different types of child custody issues. Child custody matters can be some of the most anxiety-inducing because they have to do with children. As parents, we want only the best for our children, and sometimes, child custody matters are cause for serious concern.
Below, we have included the most frequently asked questions we receive from clients related to child custody in New York. While these answers can help you get a grasp on some of the most important child custody issues, only an experienced personal injury lawyer can thoroughly answer your custody questions.
How Do I File for Child Custody?
Whether you are going through a divorce, or you are not married to your child’s parent, you may need to file for child custody. The first step in the process is filing a legal document asking the court to determine to appoint you as the parent with primary custody of your child. In New York, parents seeking to file for child custody have a choice. They can file a child custody petition and have a judge hear their case, or they can go to mediation and settle the child custody matter outside of court.
The petition process is different for those filing for divorce and those who are not. If you are currently married and your child was born while you were married, you will need to file a divorce petition in which you request child custody and/or child support. If you are becoming legally separated, then you can request child custody while you petition the court for a legal separation.
If you are requesting child custody and you are a biological father who is not listed on the child’s birth certificate, or your child was born outside of marriage, you will first need to file an action to determine paternity. Once the court grants your paternity action, you will be able to request custody of your child.
Who Can File for Child Custody in New York?
Many people assume that only a child’s biological parent can file for child custody. However, anyone who plays an important role in the child’s life can file a petition for custody, even non-parents. It is harder for a non-parent to be awarded custody of the child, however. When non-parent request custody, a judge will only grant it if there are “extraordinary circumstances.”
If the judge finds that extraordinary circumstances exist, he or she will consider the best interest of the child and make a custody determination. In New York family courts, those requesting custody are called petitioners and those against the petition are called respondents.
Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Do Not Have Custody?
Every case is different, but in most cases, if you do not have custody of your child, the court will require you to pay child support. In New York, child support payments are meant to help the custodial parent pay for all of the financial responsibilities that come with having a child. Courts look at multiple factors to determine whether or not one parent needs to pay child support to the custodial parents. Child support payments are intended to provide for all of the following types of expenses:
- Health and medical care
- Educational expenses
I Have Full Custody, Do I Need to Allow Visitation to the Co-Parent?
The answer to this question depends on the terms of your court order. If the judge required you to allow visitation in your Court Order, then you must allow it. If you fail to follow the court order, you could be held in contempt of court, even if you do not agree with the judge’s decision to allow your co-parent visitation rights.
Keep in mind that you are not required to allow the other parent the ability to visit your children if the court did not require it in your custody order. The other parent must file a request for visitation. If the court has already denied the request for visitation, then your co-parent needs to request the court’s order. If the co-parent is threatening you or your children over visitation, you may need to file a domestic order of protection.
How Do I Get Full Custody?
Many of our clients seek full custody of their children. The first step is to decide whether or not it is better to negotiate with your co-parent to avoid any further legal disputes. Try to keep the child’s best interest in mind, as difficult as that can be. New York judges prefer to grant both parents some type of custody because they believe children are better off when they have two loving parents who are actively involved in their lives.
However, if your co-parent is dangerous or harmful to your children, you can seek sole custody. If you are seeking full custody, there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood of a court granting your full custody. You should avoid taking the following actions:
- Intimidating, threatening, or harassing the co-parent
- Seeking full custody simply to control the other parent or gain an advantage
- Communicating with the other parent directly when they have an attorney. It is always best to speak to your attorney, who will then contact your co-parent’s attorney.
- Failing to attend legal proceedings, appointments, and hearings, or any other meeting related to your child’s custody that you are required to attend.
Contact an Experienced New York Child Custody Lawyer
At Thomas Weiss & Associates, we understand how difficult negotiating child custody can be. We pride ourselves on helping our clients achieve the best possible legal results. We also give every client the personal attention they deserve through some of the most challenging times of their lives. Contact our New York law firm as soon as possible to schedule your free initial consultation.