One of the scariest things about getting a divorce as a parent in New York is the uncertainty regarding custody and visitation that comes with the end of your marriage. You may not feel confident about how the courts will split custody between you and your spouse, particularly if you have heard nightmare stories from people who claim that the courts have unfairly limited their contact or relationship with their children.

Understanding how the New York family courts make custody decisions will make it easier for you to feel confident about pursuing your preferred custody outcome and moving forward with a divorce that involves minor children.

The courts care about what’s best for the kids, not just what the parents want

People going through a divorce can often lose sight of the big picture during that process, behaving in ways that they will later feel embarrassed about. Otherwise loving and devoted parents may starts to treat their children like a pawn or a prize to be won in the divorce proceedings.

The courts do not take a kind view of parents who prioritize their own wishes above the comfort and well-being of their children. Their focus will always be on what is best for the children in the family, and they want to see that same concern reflected in the attitudes and behaviors of their parents.

If one parent makes it clear that they don’t intend to work with the other or respect shared custody arrangements, the courts may adjust their custody determination to reflect that unhealthy attitude. The ideal involves two parents who both play a role in the lives of the children and who support each other as co-parents after the divorce.

The courts want to know each parent can fulfill their duties to the children

Shared or joint custody scenarios have become the standard, rather than the exception, in modern divorces. Following what is best for the children, the courts want to preserve their parental relationships and give them a broad base of social support.

However, there are situations in which the New York family courts will determine that one parent may not currently have the capability of sharing custody. Previous attempts at parental alienation, a history of mental health issues, severe illness, addiction or a pattern of abusive behavior could all result in the courts deciding one parent should have primary physical and legal custody instead of fully shared custody outcomes.