If you are getting divorced, and you and your spouse have children under age 18, you must work out the details of child custody. These can include which parent the child will live with at what time, how you and the other parent will handle drop-offs and pickups, and even how you will decide issues about their education. When you decide these issues, you write them up in a document known as a parenting plan.
You can work out a parenting plan on your own, with the help of your attorneys, but it’s common for New York courts to play a role at this step.
Child custody in New York can involve joint or sole custody.
Sole custody is also known as full custody. In this type of situation, the child lives with one parent most of the time and that parent — known as the custodial parent — makes has the legal authority to make most decisions about raising the child. However, typically, the other parent has rights to visitation, meaning they can visit the child or even have the child live with them for periods, according to a schedule outlined in the parenting plan. The visitation schedule typically must be approved by the court.
Depending on the parenting plan, the noncustodial parent may also have some rights to decision-making.
In a joint custody situation, both parents agree to act as custodial parents. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will split their time and responsibilities 50/50. Rather, they use their parenting plan to determine their custody schedules.
New York courts can’t order parents to accept a joint custody situation if that’s not what the parents want. However, the courts can and often do take a role in helping parents craft their plans.
Crafting a joint custody parenting plan can be a long process with many disagreements along the way. Often, courts issue a temporary custody order while parents are still working out the details.
Otherwise, a child custody order stays in place until the child reaches 18 or one or both parents request a modification.