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New York Child Custody Lawyer & Visitation Attorney

We Serve Clients Throughout Northern New York, Including Ithaca, Cortland, Waverly, and Elmira and The Surrounding Communities.

Separation and divorce are difficult, but they become significantly more emotionally taxing and complicated when children are involved.  When child custody issues arise, each parent typically wants to spend as much time as possible with the child and have a say in important life decisions.  While it may be somewhat easy to determine who gets specific property, determining who a child should live with while keeping the child’s best interest in mind can be extremely challenging.  If one parent has an illness, mental condition, or substance use problem, the situation can become even more difficult and contentious.

Holidays, sporting events, midnight bedtime stories, and daily interactions create precious memories that cannot be replaced.  If an unfavorable custody order is put into place, a parent may lose out on many of these invaluable experiences with a child.

When your child’s future is on the line, it is crucial to take every possible action to ensure that the best possible resolution is reached.  At Friedlander & Mosher, we have decades of legal experience, and can aggressively advocate on your behalf to uphold your rights and seek to get you the custody arrangements to which you are entitled.

Call our offices today to learn how we can help!

How Does Child Custody Work in a New York Divorce or Separation?

If a couple comes to an agreement regarding custody, these terms can be memorialized in a custody agreement.  This agreement should provide a detailed outline of how major decisions will be made for the child (such as medical treatment and educational decisions), parenting access, including where the child will regularly reside and what holidays, birthday, vacations, and other events the child will spend with each parent.

If an amicable resolution cannot be reached, it is usually necessary for a court to help resolve the dispute.  Some couples find mediation and collaboration helpful in working out conflicts.  However, if an agreement still cannot be reached, the courts will make a final custody ruling delineating who is responsible for the child’s care, as well as the visitation and other rights of each parent.

Who Gets Custody of Children in a Divorce?

Many people are under the false impression that a mother will always be given primary custody of a child.  This is erroneous.  New York Domestics Relations Law § 70(a)[1] dictates that:

“in all cases, there shall be no prima facie right to the custody of the child in either parent, but the court shall determine solely what is in the best interest of the child, and what will best promote its welfare and happiness, and make award accordingly.”

This means that in all custody cases, custody is determined based solely on what is in the best interests of the child.  Courts consider factors such as the ability of each parent to care for a child, the emotional and physical demands of the child, the current relationship with each parent, and the stability of the home environment.  Additionally, a judge will examine any evidence that a parent may be unfit to provide care.

Today, many judges strive to award equitable joint custody when possible, to give each parent equal and significant time with the child.  However, in highly contentious disputes, one (or both parents) will often try to tarnish the other person’s reputation and provide evidence that they should not be entitled to split custody.  In these types of situations, it is vital to have an attorney who can refute unfitness claims and present a compelling case that clearly demonstrates that a parent should have joint or primary physical custody.

What is the Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody?

Legal custody allows a parent to make important decisions about a child’s care, such as medical treatment or religious upbringing.  If joint legal custody is awarded, both parents have a say in making these determinations and must agree on the decisions together, regardless of who the child lives with.  If a judge gives only one parent legal custody, only that parent will have the right to make major decisions for the child.

Physical custody, also known as residential custody, refers to where the child will primarily live.  If joint physical custody is awarded, the child or children will live with each parent for approximately an equal amount of time.  If a judge gives sole physical custody, the parent or guardian will have physical custody of the child most of the time, and the other parent, the noncustodial party, will be granted visitation.

What Are My Options for Pursuing Custody?

If a custody order is not in place, there are typically two options available for pursuing custody.  First, a party can file a custody petition and have the case heard by a judge.  Alternatively, it may be possible to have the case referred to mediation.  This option allows parents to work together with a neutral third party to develop a plan that is mutually acceptable to both parties.

If a custody or visitation order is already in place, a request for custody or visitation modification can be filed to change the order if there is a “change in circumstances,” or a court can be petitioned for custody or visitation enforcement if the one parent is not complying with an order.

Why Should I Hire an Experienced Ithaca Child Custody Attorney?

Having an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf can help the process run smoother and substantially increase the chances of receiving a favorable custody order.  If a high-conflict case ensues and one parent has a substance abuse problem, illness, or mental health issues (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or bipolar disorder), an attorney can help to get the client stabilized or in recovery to get support from physicians, therapists, family members, or a substance use problems.  This can significantly help to increase the chances of custody or the frequency of visitation.

As Ithaca child custody attorneys, we represent clients in seeking to negotiate an amicable custody plan or, when an agreeable arrangement cannot be reached, we will work tenaciously in seeking to protect your rights and get you the best custody order possible at court.  We invite you to call our office today to learn about your rights and options.

Related Pages


[1] New York Domestic Relations Law § 70(a).

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