Divorce can be a an emotionally and financially devastating process to go through. It is bad enough that divorce signals the end of a loving relationship, often turning once-friends into bitter rivals. But it adds an additional level of tragedy that innocent children are often involved, having their lives irrevocably altered by circumstances that are completely out of their control.
Although it would be nice to live in a world where all marital separations could be amicably resolved, such is not the world we inhabit. In the real world, many divorce cases ultimately end up before the Family Courts, the place where all matters pertaining to parenting rights are handled in the state of New York.
If you are involved in a child custody proceeding, it is absolutely crucial that you understand how serious being involved in Family Court is and what the potential consequences may be. All too often, parties to Family Court proceedings fail to take them seriously. This is a terrible mistake, as Family Court rulings often have more severe consequences on people’s lives than even the rulings of criminal courts. The decisions of a Family Court judge are usually binding until the child in question turns 18. In some cases, such as in rulings regarding alimony payments, the decisions may be life-long.
Another aspect of Family Court is that the decisions made by a judge in cases like those relating to child custody are generally considered unappealable. While this may not be universally true, the rates at which Family Court rulings are overturned by higher courts are so low that, for all practical purposes, a Family Court ruling is absolute and final.
This means that it is even more important than normal to get a competent lawyer on your side, getting things done right the first time around. Many parents have their lives badly damaged by becoming subject to Family Court rulings from which they have no possible means of escaping. And in child custody cases, a violation of a Family Court ruling can and will lead directly to penalties, up to and including being sent to jail.
In the state of New York, there are two types of custody. The first is referred to as physical custody. This is the form of custody that is granted to the parent who own the primary domicile of the child. Although physical custody is rarely granted to both parents, due to the fact that the majority of cases appearing before the Family Courts involve parents who have physically separated, it is usually still possible for the non-custodial parent to visit the child or even have them live at their home on a limited basis. Courts will almost always grant visitation privileges to the physically non-custodial parent, barring some kind of serious aggravating circumstance.
The other form of custody is what’s known as legal custody. This involves the ability of parents to make decisions materially affecting the child’s well being as well as the ability to veto decisions made by the other parent in cases where those decisions may run contrary to the best interests of the child.
In New York, it is possible for both parents to be granted joint legal custody. However, this is unlikely to be granted once the parties have appeared before the Family Court. This is because the court is reluctant to grant joint custody in cases where there is demonstrated hostility between the parties or any indication that they will not be able to work together in the best interest of the child.
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