Long Island Child Custody Attorneys Serving Nassau, Suffolk & Queens Counties

The terms parenting time, parenting plan, or parental rights and responsibilities have come into favor, replacing the term custody in court orders and in legal treatises. Custody, however, is still a viable term which encompasses a parent’s legal rights concerning his/her children. The New York State Domestic Relations Law states that there is no prima facie right to custody of a child in either parent. Case law has established that the factors to be considered by a court in awarding custody include the quality of the home environment and the parental guidance provided by each parent. Of equal importance is the ability of each parent to effectively provide for the child’s emotional and intellectual development. In recent times, the ability of a parent to foster a positive relationship with the other party has become an important, if not critical, aspect in determining one’s custodial fitness. Parents may, and probably should, agree to joint decision-making (often referred to as joint custody) in their custodial agreements. However, parties who are unable to agree and who go to trial to contest custody will find that most judges will not grant joint decision-making after trial on the premise that two people who are hostile and acrimonious to each other are not candidates for joint custody. The Court will view in a negative light any behavior or actions by a parent that limits access between the children and the other parent, or attitude that demeans the other parent to the child. Such behavior is usually fatal to the offending parent to any hope of gaining custody.

The Court must determine what is in the best interest of the child and make a custody determination that will promote the child’s greatest welfare and happiness. In reaching its decision, the Court will consider the wishes of the child. The extent of such consideration will largely depend on the age and level of maturity possessed by the child. In a contested case, the child will be represented by an attorney appointed by the Court from a panel of eligible lawyers who have experience and training representing children.

In many contested custody cases, the judge will appoint a psychologist, called a forensic evaluator, to interview the parties and the children in an effort to determine each parent’s fitness and parental skills. Psychological tests and interviews are useful in exposing any behavioral, emotional, or mental health issues. Forensic evaluators will speak with treating therapists, doctors, and teachers in their process of gathering information. At the end of this process, the psychologist produces a report which sets forth his findings. At trial, the evaluator will testify as to his opinions. The many factors which go into the analysis, preparation, and settlement (or trial) of a custody dispute require experienced attorneys who regularly practice in this field. The Long Island child custody attorneys at Mangi & Graham, LLP have written and lectured on custody issues for 30 years.

At a custody consultation, you should expect to discuss and explore all possible settlement options. If such options are not possible due to the facts of your particular case, then, in such event, you should discuss the marshalling of evidence and witnesses necessary for a successful conclusion. Factors which have a direct bearing on a custodial outcome include domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse, and problems managing anger. Robert C. Mangi and James J. Graham, Jr. have tried custody of all kinds in Supreme Court and in Family Court. Custody cases in today’s world include those involving same-sex couples and relocation cases involving interstate issues. Check with Mangi & Graham, LLP on emerging custody law.