When a married couple with minor children seeks a divorce they often forget that their interests are not automatically aligned with the best interests of their child. If they cannot agree on a custody and visitation arrangement, the Court steps in to protect the children by appointing a children’s attorney aka guardian ad litem and by appointing at least one forensic psychologist or physician to evaluate which home environment would be better for the children. As you may suspect these paraprofessionals can contribute to a very expensive divorce bill. Therefore it is best that the parties come to a mutual decision about custody and visitation without involving third parties who will be required to approve any agreement the parents make once they get involved.
According to New York’s Domestic Relations Law, the parent to be awarded custody is not an automatic assumption. DRL 70 states that “there shall be no prima facie right to the custody of the child in either parent, but the court shall determine solely what is for the best interest of the child.’ DRL 240 also echos that language. This concept has been expanded in New York’s body of case law resulting in factors which help a court determine what is in the best interests of the child.
(1) The parent who has been the primary caretaker;
(2) The age and health of the parties;
(2) The need for stability and continuity in the child’s life;
(3) The relative financial ability of each parent;
(4) The quality of home environment and the parental guidance each parent provides;
(5) The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s emotional and intellectual development;
(6) The relative fitness of each parent;
(7) The length of time the present custodial arrangement has been in effect; and
(8) The desires of the child.
Ultimately, unless being around a certain parent is inherently bad for a child, a child needs both parents. A child is not property. A child is a human being who only has one set of biological parents. No matter how much a party may hate their spouse, there is nothing they can do to change that so they might as well start by agreeing for the sake of their child.