Custody & Visitation

Westchester Child Custody and Visitation Attorney - Protect your family.

There are many factors that are considered when making child custody decisions. Though custody was once almost exclusively granted to the mother unless she was proven unfit or a danger to the child, most jurisdictions in the United States take a much broader view of the subject today, including New York and Westchester County judges. There are dozens of factors the court will consider when determining with which parent the child or children should reside, whether joint custody is appropriate, and what will be most beneficial to the family. At Fredman Baken & Kosan we analyze the facts of each individual matter with care, confidentiality, and compassion, as we have found that no two cases are exactly alike. Following are some of the factors taken into consideration when determining child custody and visitation:

  • The preferences of the child (depending on age)
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The mental and physical health of all parties involved
  • How the child adjusts to his/her environment in school, home or the community
  • History of the parents’ relationships with the children, including the possibility of violence by either of the parents
  • Special needs of the children or parents

Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody?

In most cases, joint custody is based on the belief that when possible, having both parents maintain active participation in the child’s life is most beneficial for all concerned, and that there is no valid reason to relegate either parent to second-class status.

Joint custody means that both parents share the responsibilities for the children, working together to approve any major decisions related to the children’s lives. For this reason, most courts encourage joint custody, whereby one parent is still the primary residential parent (where the child lives most of the time) and the other parent is considered the non-primary residential parent (the child has visitation/access with this parent). There are various forms of what is called joint custody. Under New York law, although many judges encourage some kind of “joint custodial” arrangement, the court cannot order such an arrangement unless both parents (and the children’s attorney, if one has been appointed by the court) agree.

Sole custody means the primary care giver (custodial parent) does not need to obtain the other’s approval to develop plans as to how the child should be raised or to make major decisions matters such as medical procedures or educational matters or less important issues such as after school activities, although even in these situations, we advise most parents to discuss such issues with the other parent (at least obtain his or her input). Moreover, we find that many judges in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, where we practice most, are now moving towards directing that non-custodial parents have certain rights regarding medical procedures, educational choices, and participation in sports or other activities that are not the everyday type.

As part of our representation of every client, we will carefully review all of the factors affecting your family and use the information you provide to us in helping you to determine what course of action would be best for both parents and child(ren). Our many years of experience, including almost 100% positive (for our client and the children) outcomes in those few custodial cases that have to be tried, gives us the proper perspective in advising clients when to litigate the rights of our clients and their families, which is always a costly prospect, and one that should never be taken lightly.

When making a decision in regard to a child’s welfare, the court’s primary focus is on what is in the “best interest of the child(ren)”. Child custody and child access, like child support, involve the rights of the child, usually more so than the parent. Therefore, those that focus on separate family law issues such as a father’s or mother’s rights, are not in tune with what is the primary focus when dealing with how to help the family. Every child has the right to have as much contact with each parent as is consistent with his or her best interests, even if it does not necessarily meet with a parent’s desires . The best interests of the child are determined by a number of factors, including:

  • the love, affection & ties between the child and each person seeking child custody or access
  • the ability and willingness of each person to encourage a relationship with the other person
  • the permanence of the family unit that the child would live in

What is determined to be in the best interests of the child is not based on any generalizations about child custody and access. Each child custody case must be decided based on its individual details and the evidence that existed and can be presented. Having your particular child custody case or questions evaluated by the experienced attorneys of our firm offers you the best chance of a positive resolution that serves all parties.