If you have a child together, the subject of child custody and visitation rights will most certainly arise during the divorce. Often, the court will encourage an arrangement where both parties come up with a custody and visitation plan that works for everyone involved.
Whether the parents are drafting a custody plan on their own or through the court, it is important to understand that a custody decision is made based on the best interest of the child. As such, it is not uncommon for either parent to want to know what amounts to the best interest of the child.
Understanding the doctrine of the best interest of the child
Parents have considerable leeway regarding their child’s custody and parenting plan if they can agree. However, if they cannot reach an agreement on their own, then a family court judge may step in and rule on the matter. While doing so, the judge will consider the following factors and how they relate to the child’s best interests:
- Each parent’s ability to care for the child
- Any history of abuse (child abandonment) and domestic violence
- Each parent’s schedule
- Any criminal history (especially crimes that might threaten the child’s well-being such as child pornography)
- The child’s preference
- The child’s tie to the community and school
So what determines a parent’s fitness for custody?
If you are seeking an arrangement where you will be the primary or sole custodian of the child, the court will be interested in knowing the other parent’s emotional and financial status. If the other parent does not have a history of criminal behavior, substance abuse or domestic violence, then the court will be inclined toward approving a joint custody arrangement if you are living in the same community. However, if the other parent’s lifestyle or character poses a threat to the child’s well-being, then the court will restrict their access to the child.
New York child custody laws are designed to safeguard the best interests of the child. Find out how you can create a custody and parenting plan that will align with these laws.