Understanding Legal vs. Physical Child Custody in New York

Published On: September 14, 2022Categories: Child Custody

Hudson Valley Child Custody Attorney

For parents who are going through a divorce, child custody is often one of the most important issues that will need to be addressed. However, these matters may also affect unmarried parents, and when a couple separates, or in situations where parents were never together in a long-term relationship, they will need to determine how they will handle issues related to their children. It is important to understand exactly what is meant by the term “child custody,” and this will ensure that parents know about their rights and responsibilities and the steps they can take to protect their children’s best interests.

Child Custody and Visitation

As in most states, New York courts will address two separate issues related to custody of children, and these are commonly referred to as legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the rights and responsibilities of parents to make decisions about their child’s welfare, and this includes matters such as education, medical care, and participation in religious services or activities. In New York, courts will generally presume that it is in a child’s best interests to have both parents involved in these decisions, and they will typically award joint legal custody. However, there may be some situations where it will be more appropriate for one parent to have primary or sole legal custody, such as when the other parent has not been involved in making decisions related to their children or has been absent from their lives.

When parents share joint legal custody, they will both have the responsibility to make decisions about their child’s welfare. They will need to work together to make decisions and reach agreements about how certain issues will be handled, such as what doctors the child will see and where they will go to school. In some cases, one parent may have primary legal custody, giving them the right to make most types of decisions, but they may be required to inform the other parent about important issues and provide them with access to the child’s medical and educational records.

Physical custody relates to where a child will live. In some cases, parents may be able to agree on a parenting schedule that allows their child to spend equal amounts of time with both of them, and this is referred to as joint physical custody. In situations where children live with one parent for more than 50 percent of the time, this parent will be considered to have primary or sole physical custody. While the child will live primarily with the custodial parent, they will usually be able to spend visitation time with the non-custodial parent.

Regardless of how legal custody is handled, parents will usually be able to share physical custody in some manner. Even if one parent does not have any say in child-related decisions, they will usually have the right to regular visitation time that will allow them to maintain a close, ongoing relationship with their child. It is rare for a parent to be completely denied visitation with their child. Even if a parent has a history of abuse or other criminal behavior, they may be granted visitation time with their child, although restrictions may apply, such as the requirement for visitation to be supervised.

Contact Our Hudson Valley Child Custody Attorney

If you need to address child custody issues, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. At Law Offices of Robert S. Lewis, P.C., our Rockland County child custody lawyer has extensive experience handling these types of cases, and we will work diligently to protect your parental rights and help you find solutions that provide for your child’s best interests. Contact us today at 845-358-7100 to set up a free consultation.