How to Prepare for a Child Custody Battle
Uncontested child custody cases have the potential to turn into nasty battles. Parents can find themselves lost in the family court system, desperate to do whatever it takes to keep custody of their children. Hire an experienced attorney who specializes in child custody matters during this very confusing and stressful time so that you can focus on your children. A good family lawyer will give you a better understanding of the process and what to expect.
Child Custody 101
New York State will award custody based on what is in the best interest of the child. This varies from case to case, so it is impossible to predict what will happen. A judge can take any of the following factors into consideration when ruling in a child custody case:
- Which parent has been the primary caretaker
- Which parent is best able to care for the child, emotionally, mentally, and physically
- The home environment of each parent, and which would be more conducive to properly raising a child
- The mental and physical health of each parent
- The child’s wishes, depending on the age and maturity of the child
While the financial stability of each parent is considered in custody cases, one parent will not lose custody of their child because they make less money than the other party. Unless otherwise agreed upon, custodial parents are entitled to child support.
A judge will often appoint an attorney for a child during a custody dispute. Also known as law guardians, these attorneys will advocate on the child’s behalf. The attorney will interview the child to find out about their home life and any custody preferences. A judge will take the law guardian’s arguments into consideration, but the judge will not base their final ruling solely on this information.
Court Ordered Forensic Examiners and Therapists
In some cases, a judge will issue an order requesting the services of a forensic examiner or therapist. A forensic examiner reviews evidence pertinent to the case, and presents it to the judge. Evidence in child custody disputes can include interviews with parents, other relatives, and even teachers. In special circumstances, a one-on-one meeting with the child is required.
Qualified therapists can act as forensic examiners, and will often use their psychology training to determine what custody arrangement would be in the child’s best interest. A therapist observes interactions between each parent and child, making note of the child’s mood and behavioral changes. Additionally, a therapist can counsel the child throughout the divorce process. The therapist’s observations will guide their recommendations to the court regarding custody and visitation.
Depending on recommendations from the law guardian, forensic evaluator, or therapist, a judge may order parents to attend parenting classes prior to issuing a custody decision. The classes serve to educate the parents on the effect divorce or custody proceeding can have on children and to provide the skills necessary to positively co-parent children. In extreme situations, a judge can require a parent to attend a basic parenting course if they have been absent in their child’s life and are now petitioning for visitation or custody rights.
Tips for a Fast Custody Case
The child custody process can be slow since there are many cases being processed in family court. A child custody matter where parents stick to the existing custody or visitation schedule will resolve more quickly. For instance, if you are a stay-at-home parent and are the primary caregiver, don’t suggest to the court that you will seek full-time work and put your children in daycare. Children function best when their routines are disrupted as little as possible, and a judge will take this into consideration when determining custody.
It is important to respect a child’s other parent, and to do your best to abide by any temporary orders of custody or visitation. Follow a schedule, keep the other parent informed of any changes, and provide updates regarding the child’s health, activities, or issues in school. Parental communication will show the court that you are an honest, trustworthy person, and are capable of successfully co-parenting your child.
The Best Child Custody Lawyers in New York
The attorneys at Brian D. Perskin & Associates, P.C. recognize how crucial child custody cases are, which is why we dedicate our practice to family and matrimonial law. Our extensive courtroom experience in New York has led to a significant number of custody cases won on behalf of our clients. If you’re facing a divorce or family law matter and are determined to keep custody of your children, contact us for a free consultation.