Child's Best Interest Standard in New York
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What Is the "Child's Best Interest" Standard?
The “child’s best interest” refers to child custody arrangements or visitation schedules. Generally, courts will consider a variety of factors that all take into account the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. While the parent’s desire is obviously important, the child’s best interests will almost always take priority. The reasoning behind this standard in family law courts is to ensure child develops and adjusts in a healthy way.
How Is the Child’s Best Interest Determined in New York?
In New York, a judge is offered very broad discretion in considering the child’s best interest. The law essentially only requires the judge to consider what will promote the happiness and welfare of the child, and to consider “facts and circumstances” of the specific family situation.
Are There Any Specific Considerations?
While there are not exactly any specific considerations, there are several common, logical things to a judge will take into account.
- Current or Past Abuse - Due to the court’s overriding concerns for the health and safety of the child, judges will put specific emphasis on harm or abuse to the child, as well as any past domestic violence.
- Home Environment - In New York, this will play a rather significant role in determining custody. Where there are dangers to the child, such as loaded weapons, or even less life threatening situations, such as exposure to a turbulent relationship, may effect the judges decision.
- Military Service - A court may order a modification of custody for someone in active military service to protect the best interests of the child. Courts often consider if any type of interaction between the parent and child is possible. A judge may require one parent to facilitate for one of the following types of communication between the active military parent and the child: e-mail, telephone, and webcams.
- Finances - A parent must be able to provide and care for their child, and therefore the financial situation of each parent will be considered.
- Alcohol and Drug Use - Because alcoholism or drug abuse can obviously have averse effects on the relationship between parent and child, a judge will take alcohol and drug use into account in determining the overall fitness of each parent.
Can the Child’s Best Interests Standard be Overridden?
In New York, the answer is generally no. The judge must ultimately always act in the best interest of the child.
Should I Hire a Family Lawyer?
When dealing with custody orders and visitation rights, it is important to work under the guidance of a lawyer who understands the various laws governing such matters. Even in the simplest child custody claim, there are numerous deadlines to meet and documents that need to be filed. A competent family law attorney can assist you greatly in the process.
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Last Modified: 04-04-2014 04:26 PM PDT
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