Issues surrounding child custody and visitation during contested divorce battles are a major concern for the court. Judges routinely have to hear compelling arguments from both parties and their attorneys that try to convince them to rule in a particular person’s favor. In some instances, child custody cases involve a party that has substance abuse issues, lives in an unstable environment, or has previously been abusive toward their children or former spouse. These factors can greatly impact the court’s final order of custody.
The Child’s Best Interest
The court’s main focus and concern in a custody matter is the children’s best interest. A judge’s intention is never to completely separate a child from one of their parents, however, sometimes revoking custody or unsupervised visitation rights with the child in question will ultimately be the best possible outcome for the child. Before making such a drastic decision, a judge will examine facts specific to a particular case, such as a history of abuse, alcoholism or drug addiction, as well as the living situation of each parent.
Drug Addiction and Alcoholism
A parent who has a history of substance abuse, alcoholism, or another addiction will have to take extra steps to prove they are a stable parent who deserves custody or visitation rights. While children, especially younger ones, may not realize their parent has substance abuse problems, they will be effected by the parent’s actions while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Children are put at risk because their parent’s decision making skills are greatly impaired while high or drunk. It is not, and never will be, in a child’s best interest to be a part of this harmful and dangerous scenario. Whether in public or in the privacy of the parent’s home, there are just too many risks associated with child care while the parent is under the influence.
A concerned party can request that the court orders their spouse to take mandatory drug tests. These mandatory tests will help to ensure that the accused litigant is restraining from using, or abusing, illegal drugs or alcohol. The petitioning party must have a valid reason for requesting the tests, and be able to prove a history of substance abuse. The parent ordered to participate in drug testing must abide by the court orders. Failing to do so will greatly impact their action, and may even result in a loss of child custody or visitation rights.
Domestic Violence and Abuse
Substance abuse is not the only negative situation that influences child custody orders in New York State Family Court. Adults who have a violent past or a proven history of domestic violence, physical, sexual or mental abuse will be examined closely by a judge, who must decide whether or not that person is stable enough to be a positive parental role model.
It is very likely that one party will address their former spouse’s past in court in an attempt to prevent their spouse from being granted custody or visitation. While a child’s safety is always a top concern in custody battles, an accusation or conviction of physical, sexual, or mental abuse does not necessarily mean it will happen again. That being said, it is common for a court to order supervised visitation between the accused parent and child, pending an evaluation from a licensed family therapist of psychologist.
Stability is favored by Courts
A parent must be able to provide a safe and stable home environment for their children, regardless of whether or not they have been awarded primary residential custody. Stability is needed to help children cope with divorce, and an unsafe living situation will not lend to proper coping.
Stability can be provided in many ways, including the kind of physical structure children are being raised in. What qualifies as a safe home environment is debatable, but it usually means that the home has adequate sleeping arrangements, is safe and free of hazards, and will allow the children to be surrounded by love and support.
Stability also has to do with how the child is co-parented. Co-parenting occurs when divorced parents work together to raise their children. Effective co-parenting requires the participation of both parties. A great way to provide stability post-divorce is to help facilitate a seamless transition between households. Shared rules, such as bedtime, when homework shall be completed, and a list of chores, are all ways to give a child a sense of stability. Judges are more willing to allow extended visitation and more flexible custody orders if parents can show that they are doing everything in their power to provide a stable life for their children.
Child Custody Lawyers
Child custody actions are sensitive matters that effect many New Yorkers. Because of the delicate nature of these cases, it is imperative that you retain an experienced family law attorney who has experience arguing complex motions in court. At Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C., we focus our attention and expertise on divorce and family law matters in the New York City area. With over 50 years of combined experience, the team of attorneys are well versed in the complexities of the judicial system. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!