As a father, you want what’s best for your child. Even if your relationship with the mother does not work out, you want to be an active part of your child’s life. At times, it seems as if the court favors the mother and puts the father in a position where he must prove his worthiness to have at least some custody and visitation privileges. In fact, the laws in New York City provide you with more of an opportunity to be there for your child than you may think. Here are some things you should know and discuss with your legal counsel.
New York Domestic Relations Law
One of the key laws you need to know well is the New York Domestic Relations Law. Specifically, Section 70 will be of interest to you if paternity is in question or if there is an attempt to prevent you from exercising your parental rights.
This law includes provisions for establishing paternity. While many think of this as being a way to confirm the male is the biological parent when he denies that status, it also works in another way. If you are convinced that you are the biological father, you have the right to file documents with the court and demand that a paternity test be conducted. Assuming the results indicate you are highly likely to be the father, it’s possible to move forward with petitions related to gaining some form of custody and regular visitation with the child. Depending on the circumstances, you might be in a position to seek sole custody or at least be appointed by the court as the custodial parent.
Uniform Child Custody Act of 1977
The family courts in New York City operate with the intent to protect the rights of minor children by approving custody and support arrangements that are deemed to be in the best interests of the child. One of the foundational laws that outlines how those rights are protected is the Uniform Child Custody Act of 1977.
A careful reading of the Act lays the framework for establishing the biological and emotional connection to the child. It also provides the basis for evaluating the ability of each parent to be granted physical custody and serve as the custodial parent. In terms of protecting the rights of the non-custodial parent, there are provisions related to creating a reasonable schedule for financial support and granting visitation rights designed to ensure the child has access to and spends time with both parents.
The key to understanding how the laws are applied is knowing the court will focus on what is best for the child above all else. Any interests of either parent are considered second in priority. No matter how much one parent wants to provide the permanent home, the ability to provide a stable environment that does not pose a threat to the physical or emotional well being of the minor child is one of the first factors the court will address.
Whether your goal is to share custody with the mother, seek sole custody, or arrange for the child to live with you full-time, know that the court will extend an equal opportunity to present your case. Cooperate with your legal counsel, be prepared to provide full disclosure, and make sure all relevant facts are placed before the court. In the best-case scenario, the decision will ensure you and your child continue to spend time together and the connection between the two of you will deepen as the years pass.