The difference between legal and physical custody in New York

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2023 | Child Custody

New York parents who are divorcing or separating usually need to work out a way to share custody with one another. It can be a challenge to agree on what children need and what each of the parents should be responsible to provide. As a result, negotiations concerning custody can be very challenging, especially if parents don’t understand their rights and their obligations to their children.

Learning about what kinds of custody terms may be agreed upon or requested of the court can help parents to make more informed decisions about their rights and options. In New York, there are two types of custody that the courts award. These are the primary difference between physical and legal custody.

Physical custody is about time with the children

Many parents make physical custody the main focus of their parenting negotiations. What matters the most to them is not getting to spend as much time with the children as possible.

A parent with physical custody is the one currently responsible for providing for the child’s needs, including shelter and nutrition. They will also be the one responsible for picking the children up from school during the day should anything happen during their parenting time. The courts do tend to favor arrangements that give both parents plenty of time with the children.

Legal custody is about making important choices

Parents have the authority to decide what church their children attend, the school where they enroll and the healthcare that they receive. That decision-making authority is legal custody, and it is a very important consideration for those that will share responsibilities with a co-parent.

Often, the expectation is that co-parents will cooperate and agree on major choices, like what kind of healthcare the child will receive and whether they will transfer to a different school. Occasionally, decisions about the children may lead to conflicts and may require intervention from the courts if the parents simply do not agree about what religion the children should follow or what school they should attend.

In all custody issues in New York, judges are bound to focus on what would be in the best interests of the children. Typically, they expect parents to focus on the needs of the children rather than their own preferences and wishes. Parents who make their children a priority and that learn a bit about custody laws in New York will be in a better position to protect themselves during a custody dispute.

Learning the basics of the New York approach to child custody with the assistance of a legal professional can benefit those who are preparing for divorce or separation from their children’s other parent. Without foundational knowledge, navigating the custody process can be unnecessarily challenging and stressful.