Legal Custody in New York

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Obtaining custody of your children during the process of divorce is one of the most important battles that can be fought. You want your children to have the best future possible, but you also want to be the one to provide that bright future. In New York, there are various forms of custody and it is important to distinguish the differences between them. Two parents could share joint custody of their children. This means that both parents maintain an equal right to legal and physical custody. Why distinguish between legal and physical custody? These two rights are actually very different. If the court awards you either sole or shared legal custody of your children, it means that you as a parent have the right to make decisions for the child. Physical custody deals primarily with where the children will live.

Legal custody is both a right and a responsibility not to be given lightly. Custody discussions during divorce mediation or family court hearings can often take the longest to resolve. The most basic factor that the legal custody debate boils down to is: “what is in the best interests of the child?” The court or mediator will evaluate a number of different factors as well as compare your circumstances and abilities to that of your former spouse. Your divorce agreement will reflect what the court viewed as the best arrangement for the child. Some individuals may attempt to arrange custody agreements outside of a legal context, but the main problem with these arrangements is that they are not court-enforceable.


When both parents are granted joint custody of their children, this can include joint legal custody as well as joint physical custody. Joint physical custody arrangements will involve splitting the time that children live with each parent. Since this is a more tangible agreement, it is often easier to work out than sharing legal custody of your children. Due to differing opinions, parents may disagree when it comes to important decisions that need to be made in their children’s lives. These decisions can include things like where the children will go to school, what activities they will be involved in and even what dentist they should go to. If a dispute arises in the area of legal custody, the court or a mediator may have to step in for the purpose of figuring out the best solution for the children.

Courts and mediators will take many factors into consideration when legal custody issues arise. Listed below are some of those main factors:

  • Which parent has a history of making the decisions for the children?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each parent’s parenting skills?
  • What are the work and time schedules for each parent like?
  • How much time does each respective parent spend with their children?
  • To what degree are the parents willing to cooperate with each other?


If you and your former spouse have previously come to a custody agreement (both legal and physical) but are now facing disagreements about custody, you have the option of mediation or litigating your case. Modifications are great ways for parents to reevaluate their divorce and custody agreements and make any necessary changes due to a change in circumstances.

If you believe that your custody arrangement is fine as it is but simply needs to be enforced, our New York divorce attorneys may be able to help as well. Whether you are attempting to enforce or modify your legal custody agreement or you are looking for representation so that you can fight for legal custody (either joint or sole) then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. can help with all your family legal needs, so contact a New York child custody lawyer from the firm today!

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