The legal responsibility for a child’s care is child custody. This may occur via physical custody (residency) or legal custody. Physical custody provides for where the child will live, while legal custody provides for decision-making power over things like education and health care.
Legal custody does not necessarily always mean that only one parent has the authority to make decisions about the child. Joint custody is a situation where the two parents and other authorized caregivers (if indicated) of the child share authority amongst each other. These parents must thus communicate with each other enough to keep them informed about the child’s present circumstances and come to decisions together. Sole custody, on the other hand, leaves the non-custodial parent with the right to medical or educational information, but does not guarantee them the right to make decisions.
Additionally, when referring to physical custody, courts often use the term primary placement to describe where the child usually lives. Visitation of the second parent is often termed secondary placement, and is often accompanied by a visitation schedule that suits both the child and the parent’s time constraints. If the Judge pronounces joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent for an equal amount of time. An Order of Custody on consent is an Order issued by the presiding judge in New York Family Court that typically establishes a custody and visitation arrangement that has been agreed to by the parties.
In most cases, the court wants the child to have a relationship with both parents. When one parent has sole custody, the court will let the parent who doesn’t have custody have visits with the child and spend time with the child unless there is a good reason for the parent not to have visitation.
Custody and visitation are two separate matters but they are usually decided during the same hearing. A visitation petition can be filed as a separate case.
The court will order visitation if it is in the best interest of the child. Visitation is also called “parenting time”.
Best Interest of the Child
When there is a court case that affects a child, like custody, parental rights, or adoption, the court will consider the “best interest” of the child when making its decision.
The Family Court of the State of New York has the authority to decide cases affecting the lives of children and families. The court has a wide range of powers to fit the needs of the people who come before it.
The Family Court Act gives the Family Court power to hear certain types of cases. Each case filed is given its own identifying number, called a “docket number.”
The docket number begins with a letter that identifies the type of case filed:
Child custody is the right and duty to care for a child on a day-to-day basis and to make major decisions about the child.
In sole custody arrangements, one parent takes care of the child most of the time and makes major decisions about the child. That parent usually is called the custodial parent. The other parent generally is referred to as the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent almost always has a right of visitation a right to be with the child, including for overnight visits and vacation periods.
In joint custody arrangements, both parents share in making major decisions, and both parents also might spend substantial amounts of time with the child.
An order of custody gives responsibility for the child’s care, control, and maintenance to one or both of the child’s parents or to another party. The court may not decide issues of custody and visitation if the child is 18 years or older.
A person who has an interest in a child’s well-being and has some connection or relationship with the child may file a petition in the Family Court requesting that the court place the child in his or her custody. The petition should be filed in the county in which the child resides, so long as the child as been residing in the state for the past six (6) months. A copy of the petition and a summons must be delivered personally to (served on) the person or parties who have custody of the child. If the child’s parents are separated and one parent seeks a custody order, that parent must have the papers served on the other parent. If a non-parent is seeking custody of the child, then both the child’s parents must be served.