New York Child Custody Lawyer

Why You Need a New York Child Custody Attorney?

Legal issues involving a child can be complex and emotionally charged. At this difficult time for your family, you need the help of a custody attorney you can trust to handle your case with the utmost compassion, skill, and professionalism. 

This firm’s satisfaction comes from helping those in need of advocacy or advice.

The Manhattan custody attorneys at the Stepanian Law Firm are committed to improving the lives of children and their families through skillful and assertive legal representation. They push hard for positive outcomes while doing everything possible to reach a resolution efficiently.

Explaining Custody

  • Physical/Residential Custody

In New York State, the terms ‘physical custody’ and ‘residential custody’ are used interchangeably. The parent with physical custody is responsible for the actual physical care and supervision of a child. If the Court decides to give joint physical custody, the child will live with each parent for an equal amount of time. If the Court decides on sole physical custody or sole residential custody, then one parent will be with the child for more than 50% of the time, leaving the non-custodial parent with visitation or parenting time instead of custody.

  • Legal Custody

The parent with legal custody or decision-making custody has the right to make important decisions for the child such as medical care, education and religious upbringing. The parent without legal custody cannot make these major decisions. If the Court grants joint legal custody, then the parents will make decisions about the child together. In a joint legal custody situation, it does not matter which parent the child lives with; both parents must agree on the decisions together.

Who Can get Custody of a Child in New York?

If you and your spouse are unable to reach a custody agreement for your child or children, then a Manhattan custody attorney can argue your case with the Family Court; or if you are in the midst of divorce, with the Supreme Court. The Court will then determine custody based on the “best interests of the child”. A custody order assigns responsibility to the parent(s) for the child’s care. In New York, the Court can only make orders concerning custody until the child reaches the age of 18. (For child support purposes, however, the Court can and will order support payments be made until the child reaches the age of 21.)

In New York, either the father or the mother may get custody of their child. A New York Child Custody Lawyer will tell you that neither parent has an automatic nor preferred right to custody of their child. In other words, the child’s mother does not have a greater right to custody than the father.

New York Courts prefer to maintain a child’s life with as much stability as possible. Thus, make sure you tell your Manhattan custody attorney if you already have physical custody of the child. This is because the parent with physical custody when the divorce case is started may have a greater chance to keep physical custody. However, if the parent with physical custody is endangering the child in any way or not keeping the child’s best interests in mind, the Court will change custody. 

A grandparent may also seek for sole custody or visitation. If “either or both of the parents of a minor child, residing within [New York State], is or are deceased, or where circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene, a grandparent or the grandparents of such child may apply to the supreme court by commencing a special proceeding.” Domestic Relations Law § 72.

Where do You Go to Request Custody or Visitation of Your Children?

A parent can request custody and/or visitation when they start a divorce in the Supreme Court. Or, if there is no divorce action, then a parent may file a petition with the Family Court.

New York Child Custody Laws and Regulations

Per Domestic Relations Law § 76, New York State has jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination only if:

  1. New York is the home state of the child on the date the case was started, or was the home state of the child within six months before the case was started and a parent or legal guardian continues to live in New York

  2. The case is not pending in any other Court and:

    1. the child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent have a significant connection with New York other than mere physical presence

    2. substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationships

In determining custody or visitation rights, the Court will examine the circumstances of the parties and will order that which is in the child’s best interests. The Court’s sole concern in a custody dispute is to find a resolution that will best serve the interests of the child by promoting the child’s welfare, happiness, and optimum development.

In ascertaining the child’s best interests, the Court will consider the following factors:

  1. The demonstrated parenting ability and relative fitness of the parties;

  2. The love, affection, and nurturing given by each party to the child, the emotional bond between the child and each party, and the willingness and ability of each party to put the child’s needs ahead of his/her own;

  3. The length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment, the desirability of maintaining the current custodial residence, and the stability of the proposed custodial residence;

  4. The ability of each party to provide for the child’s emotional, intellectual, and moral development;

  5. The financial resources available to each party and the ability of each party to provide the child with food, clothing, housing, and medical care;

  6. The individual needs and expressed desires of the child and the degree to which the custodial determination would either continue or interrupt the various elements of the child’s day-to-day life;

  7. The willingness and ability of each party to facilitate and encourage a close and optimum relationship between the child and the other party; and

  8. Any other factor deemed relevant to a particular custody dispute; e.g., false allegations of abuse and its impact on the child.

What Visitation Rights do You Have?

Visitation rights or parenting time gives the non-custodial parent the ability to see the child on a regular, consistent basis. Custody and visitation rights are typically decided at the same time. Generally, the Courts believe that it is in the child’s best interest for the child to have a relationship with both parents. In the case that one parent has sole custody, the Court will secure a reasonable visitation schedule for the other parent.

If the child is of school age, they will usually visit the parent without custody every other weekend in addition to one or two weeknights after school. When the child has summer break, the non-custodial parent might have extended weekday visits. Visitation schedules vary based upon the child’s needs.

Here is an example of a typical holiday visitation schedule drafted by our custody attorneys:


Odd Years   
Even Years   
New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day   
Martin Luther King Day   
February school vacation   
April school vacation   
Memorial Day   
July 4th   
Labor Day   
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day   
Mother’s Day   
Father’s Day   
Mother’s Birthday   
Father’s Birthday   

If there have been issues of domestic violence or abuse/neglect, the Court may place limits on visitation rights. In some instances, the Court may require supervised visits.

This happens if the Court is concerned that the non-custodial parent would act in an inappropriate or dangerous manner around the child. In extreme cases, the court might deny visitation entirely. If your case involves issues of domestic violence or abuse/neglect, it is crucial to consult with a child visitation lawyer.

Modifications of Child Custody Agreements in New York

Both parents must abide by their child custody and visitation agreement. Sometimes, a custody arrangement needs to be modified by a custody attorney because life circumstances of the non-custodial and/or the custodial parent change.

Common reasons why parents seek custody modification include new living arrangements, financial changes, substance abuse issues, domestic violence, remarriage, criminal conviction and when one parent fails to abide by visitation orders.

New York Courts will approve the child custody and visitation modification petition submitted by our custody lawyers if the parent can prove that such modification is necessary and is in the child’s best interests.

If you cannot come to a modification agreement with your Ex, the Court will decide reasonable custody and visitation after a trial. You or your spouse must file a petition with the Court in order for your case to be heard. Because modification is a nuanced issue, it is best to consult with a custody lawyer.

Moving Out and Relocation With a Child in Custody

Relocation custody disputes are one of the most difficult types of custody disputes that a New York child custody lawyer deals with. In some cases, the custodial parent might wish to move to another town, out-of-state or to another country. The non-custodial parent typically opposes the move because their visitation schedule will change leaving them with less parenting time. If both parents agree with the child’s relocation, then they should sign a written agreement or stipulation drafted by a custody attorney.

You should be aware that a custodial parent cannot move to another town, state or country without approval from either the other parent or the Court. If the custodial parent moves with the child without the required approval, the Court may sanction the custodial parent with a contempt order. If you are in danger of being sanctioned by the Court for unapproved relocation, contact a custody lawyer.

To determine whether relocation is in the ‘best interests of the child’, the Court will consider the totality of circumstances, including but not limited to:

  1. Each parent’s reasons for wanting to relocate or objecting to the relocation

  2. The quality of the relationship between the child and each parent

  3. What impact the move would have on the child’s quality of life

  4. Whether relocation would make the child’s quality of life better financially, emotionally and educationally

  5. If it’s feasible for the non-custodial parent to maintain some relationship with the relocated child.

Stepanian Law Firm’s custody attorneys have extensive experience in Court representing both the custodial parent seeking to relocate and the non-custodial parent objecting to relocation. If you seek to relocate, you must prove to the Court that you are relocating for valid reasons such as remarriage or better job opportunities. If you seek to object to the child’s relocation, you must show that moving is unnecessary and would have a negative impact on the child.

Contact New York Child Custody Lawyers at Stepanian Law Firm for Agreements, Visitation Rights, Modifications and Enforcement

The Manhattan custody attorneys at Stepanian Law Firm understand this is a challenging time and believe that you deserve attentive, individualized service—and that’s exactly what you can expect when you work with Mr. Stepanian from your initial consultation to the resolution of your case. It is time to get help from an attorney you can trust to work hard for your family. Contact us at Stepanian Law Firm today for more information about how our custody lawyers can help you.

0/5 (0 Reviews)

Contact us completely free

Scroll to Top