Child Custody & Visitation

Custody and visitation disputes occur between unmarried parents, same-sex parents, divorcing parents, grandparents or other relatives, and parents who have already been divorced.  Legal custody is the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child, ranging from routine everyday choices to major life decisions such as education, religion and medical care. In joint custody, both parents have equal legal custody of the child.  Residential, or physical, custody relates to the child’s actual physical location. Visitation is the time that a parent who does not have residential custody spends with his or her child. Because circumstances may substantially change after an initial custody or visitation ruling, modifications to an existing custodial visitation or court order may occur under certain narrow circumstances as well.

Child custody matters in New York affect children under the age of 18. Courts in New York determine custody and visitation based on the “best interests of the child” standard. New York courts seek to provide parents with as much visitation and contact with their children as is reasonable and appropriate under this standard. The courts will not award joint or shared custody unless the parents can demonstrate a level of maturity, willingness and ability to set aside their personal differences in order to decide what is in the best interest of their children.

Our firm protects a client’s rights without losing sight of children’s well-being or long-term parent-child relationships so that we can approach our assessment in the same manner a court would.  We help each client understand his or her rights as well as obligations to achieve one’s goals in manner that is consistent with each child’s best interests. Where appropriate, we work with experts such as psychologists and psychiatrists to perform full forensic evaluations to determine which parent or relative is most appropriate for custody and visitation. Understanding that child custody and care is the most emotional element to family law, we listen carefully to our clients’ needs and expectations and fully educate them on the law, process from start to end, and what types of questions are asked and opinions are rendered by forensic evaluators and law guardians.  We develop visitation schedules and parenting plans that are flexible and convenient for both parents and children. We assist grandparents in insuring their rights are protected but are likewise able to assist parents in limiting a relative’s contact when warranted.

Although we strive to come to a non-adversarial resolution, where there is a strong argument to be made, we aggressively litigate our client’s custodial or visitation rights.  We have successfully established fitness and unfitness and have helped aunts, uncles, grandparents and step parents take over custody, whether temporary or permanent, when a child can be shown to be in an unhealthy environment.

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