Child Custody FAQs

Long Island Attorneys Answer Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody

How is child custody decided in New York? In this state, as in every other state, the overriding consideration is always the child's best interests, although that can be hard to determine. Often, the main factor is which parent has been the child's primary caretaker.

The Long Island child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Paul A. Boronow, PC, have decades of experience helping mothers and fathers navigate the New York family courts. If you need to petition for child custody, you can contact us to figure out the best legal approach. Our goal is to protect and assert all of your rights as a parent and minimize the disruption to your child’s life.

Q: What is the difference between "legal custody" and "physical custody" in New York?

A: In New York, there are different types of custody arrangements. Legal custody describes the parent who has the right to make important decisions about the child’s life, including where the child will go to school, what religion the child will practice and so on. Physical custody describes where a child will actually live. Both legal and physical custody can be joint; and in those cases parents share both physical and legal custody and co-parent together.

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Q: Can I file for custody in New York if I just moved here?

A: It depends on how long both you and the child have lived in New York. The family courts in the state need to have jurisdiction over the children involved in the custody dispute. In general, as long as the petitioning parent and the child have both lived in the state for six months, you would be able to petition for custody of your child.

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Q: If I am a dad, does that mean I have no chance to get custody of my child?

A: No, it does not. The family courts in New York do not favor mothers in child custody disputes to the detriment of fathers. Both parents can petition for custody in the family courts, and if there is no custody order in place, either parent could keep the child.

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Q: I can’t afford a lawyer; how can I apply for custody of my child?

A: You can still apply for custody in any New York family court because if you cannot afford an attorney, you will be appointed a family law attorney. It is difficult to file for divorce and custody at the same time, so a private attorney who can navigate both the family courts and any pending divorces would help ensure that all of your rights are protected.

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Q: What do the courts consider when deciding which parent will receive custody?

A: The courts consider many factors when making a custody decision. Neither parent has an automatic preference. The goal is to make a decision that is in the "best interests of the child." This is a holistic assessment of where the child lives, the child’s current needs, who the primary caretaker of the child is, and many other factors. It is important to remember that the court will appoint a separate lawyer for the child so that the interests of the child are represented. That attorney will interview the parents, the child, and family members or school officials and make a recommendation to the court.

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Q: We are not married; as the father, do I have any child custody rights?

A: Unmarried partners who have signed a legal document called "Acknowledgement of Paternity" can establish custody rights for a father. Often, the voluntary document is signed by both parents at the hospital where the child was born or another social services agency, and then recorded with the child’s birth certificate. However, if no such document has been filed, an unmarried father will need to petition the court to determine paternity rights, and then file for custody.

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Q: I won custody of my child but the other parent won’t give me access. What do I do?

A: Any parent that is in violation of a court custody order may be committing a crime. A parent may be charged with kidnapping if he or she violates child custody orders. Parents can use the family courts, or the police, to regain physical custody of a child.

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Q: I am behind on child support payments; can I still see my child?

A: Yes. Parents cannot be denied their visitation rights if they have failed to pay child support payments. Falling behind on child support payments means that a child support modification may need to be filed, or the parent will be in "child support arrears." However, the parent with custody cannot deny the other parent visitation rights that have been granted by the court unless a child is in danger.

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Long Island Child Custody Attorneys on Your Side

Our family law attorneys have been handling child custody petitions for decades. We know exactly how to navigate the complicated family law courts to get you access to your child. If you are pursuing custody, contact us today at (516) 227-5353 for a free consultation.

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