In New York, child custody laws apply equally to married and unmarried parents. However, unmarried parents may face unique challenges in determining custody and visitation arrangements for their children. If you are an unmarried parent in New York, it is important to understand your legal rights and options.
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody
In New York, custody is divided into two types: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions for the child, such as those related to education, healthcare, and religion. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where the child will live and who will have primary responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody
Both legal and physical custody can be awarded to one parent (sole custody) or shared by both parents (joint custody). In New York, there is a strong presumption in favor of joint custody unless one parent can demonstrate that joint custody would not be in the child’s best interests.
Factors Considered in Custody Decisions
When making custody decisions, courts in New York consider a variety of factors, including:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s basic needs
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment
- The child’s wishes (if the child is old enough to express a preference)
- Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent
- Any other factors that may affect the child’s best interests
- Establishing Paternity
If the parents are not married, paternity must be established before a court can make custody or visitation orders. Paternity can be established in several ways, including:
- Signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital when the child is born
- Signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form at a later time
- Through DNA testing ordered by the court
- Once paternity is established, the father has the same legal rights and obligations as a married father.
Negotiating a Custody Agreement
Unmarried parents may be able to negotiate a custody agreement without going to court. This can be done through mediation or by hiring attorneys to negotiate on their behalf. If the parents are able to reach an agreement, they can submit it to the court for approval.
Going to Court
If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, they may need to go to court to have a judge make custody and visitation orders. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney represent you in court.
It is also important to keep in mind that the best interests of the child are always the top priority in custody decisions. When making decisions about custody and visitation, the court will consider all relevant factors to determine what arrangement is in the child’s best interests.
Parents should also be aware that custody and visitation orders are not set in stone. If circumstances change, either parent can ask the court to modify the order. For example, if one parent moves to a new city or state, the custody and visitation schedule may need to be modified.
In addition, child support is a separate issue from custody and visitation. Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially, regardless of custody arrangements. The amount of child support is typically determined by a formula that takes into account the income of both parents and the needs of the child.
Unmarried parents in New York have the same legal rights and obligations as married parents when it comes to child custody. However, the legal process can be complex and emotional, and it is important to have an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the system and protect your rights. Ultimately, the best interests of the child should always be the top priority in any custody or visitation decision.
As an experienced family law firm, we can provide legal representation and guidance to unmarried parents facing child custody issues in New York. We can offer legal advice on custody and visitation options, negotiate custody agreements, represent clients in court, and help with modifying custody orders if necessary. Additionally, we can provide legal representation and guidance on child support issues. We are dedicated to helping unmarried parents navigate the complex legal system and protect the best interests of their children. If you are an unmarried parent facing child custody issues in New York, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for experienced legal representation and guidance.