One of the most important parts of any divorce is determining where minor children will live and who will make decisions on their behalf.
Divorcing couples should understand the different custody and visitation options and how a court order could affect their time with their children.
Physical vs. legal custody
In New York, there are two components to child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody, also called residency, determines where a child lives and who is responsible for his or her physical care. With joint physical custody, the child has equal time with both parents. If one person has sole physical custody, the child spends more than half of the time with that parent.
Legal custody refers to who has the right to make decisions for the child, including medical and religious decisions. When one parent has sole legal custody, he or she makes all legal decisions on behalf of the child. With joint legal custody, the guardians must decide important matters together.
Courts consider legal custody and residency separately, meaning parents can share legal authority over the child even if one parent has sole physical custody.
When one adult has primary custody, the court will award visitation to the noncustodial parent. Both parents have the right to regular and consistent time with their children. In cases where there is a concern for a child’s safety, a judge may order supervised visitation.
Many divorcing couples prefer to determine custody and visitation schedules themselves. However, courts can step in when an agreement is not possible.