The Issue Of Child Custody In Divorce in New York State

While we go into great detail about this issue during a divorce mediation, here is the  general overview of child custody arrangements. In New York State, a child is still considered unemancipated until age 21 (or 22 if they are still enrolled full time in college) with a few exceptions; if they marry after 18, join the armed forces or work full time after the age of 18.

There are several types of child custody arrangements that parents who are separating can choose from when deciding what is best for them and the children: joint custody, joint residential custody, split custody or sole custody.

Joint custody means joint decision making. This includes all the major issues around the children’s education, religious instruction and health.  Couples who choose this arrangement often choose one parent to be the primary residential custodial parent. In this situation, the children will reside more than half the time – usually the majority of the time with one parent. Day to day decisions are made by the parent who has the child on that particular day. Our experience is that many couples who work things out in mediation often choose joint custody with primary residential custody being with one parent or the other.

Joint residential custody is when the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent .

Split custody is sometimes chosen when one or more children will reside with one parent and the other children will reside with the other parent. This arrangement is more unusual but not impossible to implement. In cases where the children are older and want to have a voice in where they live, or where one child gets along better with one parent than the other, couples will choose split custody.

Sole custody is rarely the preferred option for the couples we have mediated. Sole custody means that the child lives with one parent and that parent makes all the major decisions. The other parent may have child visitation.

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