What do judges look for in a child custody case?

Under New York law, child custody decisions are made by family court judges based on the “best interests of the child” doctrine. This means that the judge must give custody to the parent who can meet the child’s needs best. A judge’s decision is influenced by several factors, including the child’s age and the totality of the situation. 

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What does this mean for you?

When a divorce ends in a custody dispute, the first thing that most parents want to do is try to work out an agreement with the other parent. Unfortunately, it is often very difficult for parents to come to an agreement on how to divide custody and parenting time in a way that will be fair to everyone involved. 

Having a professional evaluate your case and make a recommendation on custody is one way to help the judge reach an informed decision about what is in the best interests of your child. A forensic psychologist, licensed clinical social worker or other mental health professional can provide a custody evaluation that examines all of the aspects of your case, including your relationship with your child. 

The forensic psychologist will talk to the child, both parents and any other witnesses to determine what they think is in the best interest of your child. The psychologist may also conduct interviews with your child’s teachers and other professionals who know them well. 

If the judge finds that your child’s best interest is better served by living with someone other than you, he or she may award physical custody to the other parent. This is typically done when there is evidence of abuse or neglect and a parent’s ability to care for the child is in question. 

Another important factor to consider is your own mental health. Psychological disorders, drug or alcohol abuse, and other stressful situations can impact your ability to provide safe custody for your child. 

It is crucial that you seek counseling if your mental health issues are interfering with your ability to care for your child. This will allow you to be a better parent and ensure that you do not harm your child in the future. 

In some cases, a parent may be awarded partial physical custody of the child during the summer months. This is typically done when the other parent has a full-time job or other responsibilities that prevent them from watching their child during the school year. 

A judge’s focus on a child’s needs is the most important factor in determining custody. If a parent is not able to fulfill their basic responsibilities, such as feeding, clothing, and keeping the child safe, it is likely that they will lose custody of the child. 

The court will also look at the parents’ willingness to foster a good relationship with their child. It is common for one parent to be more cooperative with the other, especially if they are a better parent or have more experience in caring for their children.