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Child custody and child support in New York: How one affects the other

Child custody laws in New York are designed to focus on what is best for the child, which is determined through weighing a number of factors.

Parents in New York either going through divorce or simply trying to accommodate raising a child without living together have several options for making arrangements legal. This is true for both custody and child support cases. Here is a brief overview about child custody and support laws in New York and the questions people commonly have.

How does custody affect child support?

New York's laws mandate that each parent be financially responsible for a child until he or she turns 21, with few exceptions, such as emancipation. For most families, the custodial parent - meaning the parent who has physical custody of the child - would be awarded child support from the non-custodial parent. The payment amount depends on a number of items, such as the parents' incomes and the cost of the needs of the child.

Do the courts have to be involved?

Technically, parents are permitted to develop their own system for both custody and support. However, an agreement is only enforceable if it has been made legal. Therefore, parents have the ability to put a plan together and then present it to a judge, who then makes the plan an official court order. This is the most advisable route to ensuring legal protection in the event that one parent does not hold up his or her end of the bargain. When parents cannot develop a plan, a judge will do it for them.

How does a judge make a custody decision?

New York custody laws center around what is in the best interests of the child. A judge has quite a bit of flexibility when determining what the custody arrangement will look like. The courts may take into consideration the following factors:

  • Each parent's willingness to foster a relationship between the other parent and the child

  • Each parent's ability to provide for any special needs of the child
  • Any instance of domestic violence
  • Who has served as the main caregiver
  • Each parent's work schedules
  • Each parent's physical and mental health
  • The relationship the child has with siblings or extended family

The judge may also look at how the parents cooperate with each other. For example, are the parents able to work together when unexpected events could affect the arrangement? Does each parent try to encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent?

In some circumstances, depending on the age of the child, the judge may consider the wishes of the child when making a determination of residential custody. Generally, experts agree that children thrive when they have relationships with each parent. Therefore, the court system is not supposed to inherently favor one parent over the other, unless any of the above factors would sway a decision that way.