In any divorce case, child custody is one of the most important decisions a couple can address. Unfortunately, it is often one of the most disagreed upon. Family law attorneys must help navigate this with clients at the most emotional and stressful times of their lives while ensuring their future and the best interests of the children.
In New York, there is no legal presumption that child custody will be split evenly between parents. Especially when the courts become involved, they will consider many factors before determining custody. This is why parents should understand their custody rights and arrangements and get on the same page as much as possible to maintain control of where they want their children to live and how they want their children raised. Regrettably, many couples are not at a place where they can agree upon these things at the time of their divorce.
What is Joint Physical Custody?
Physical custody determines where a child will legally live. Joint physical custody sets out that the children will move between parents’ homes, but it is not necessarily a 50/50 split between homes. In most cases, joint physical custody will depend on what is most convenient to both parties. This is a couple’s opportunity to hammer out custody arrangements that work best for them mutually and independently. It is also essential for partners to spell this out as precisely as possible in their custody agreement to ensure against misunderstandings and disputes.
If the Parties Can’t Agree
If the two spouses can’t agree on how they will share the physical custody of their children, the court will get involved. As in all matters of child custody, the court’s main objective is the best interests of the children, not the two marital partners. Consequently, the court will consider many factors when determining physical custody:
- Where the child’s primary residence has been and how long they have lived with each parent.
- Each party’s skills as a parent
- If there has been any history of drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence
- What is the best scenario to keep siblings together?
- The mental and physical health of both parties
- Which parent is most likely to foster a good relationship with the other
- Which parent is most likely to offer a positive home environment
- Work schedules of each party
In a perfect world, equal joint physical custody would allow both parents a balanced living arrangement, but once the courts get involved, they will look closely at both parents to determine what they feel is best for the children. This means that one parent may be given considerably more legal and physical custody of the children than they would have liked.