If you have children and are considering filing for divorce, you have likely given a significant amount of thought to who will have custody of your children after the divorce. Perhaps you have been separated from your spouse for some time and you are both in agreement about what will happen after the divorce. Maybe you are dissatisfied with the custody arrangement you have had prior to the divorce and you plan to ask the court to make a change. Or, maybe you have no idea what you want and how to ask for it. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is the best way to fully understand your child custody options and pursue them in a divorce proceeding.
Consider the following frequently asked questions and answers about child custody in divorce cases:
- How does the court decide who will have custody of my children? The court that is hearing your divorce will also hear your related child custody case. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem who will act on behalf of your children during the proceeding. The guardian ad litem will assess your family’s life and make a statement and recommendation to the court about child custody. The court will also listen to what you and your spouse would like to see happen. If your children are old enough, the court may also hear their wishes. Ultimately, the court will make a decision it deems in the “best interests” of your children.
- Can my spouse and I agree on a custody arrangement before we go to court? Yes. Many divorce proceedings begin with spouses agreeing on how to separate property and how to arrange for the care of their children, and courts will typically give deference to your wishes. However, a court will always appoint a guardian ad litem and will always make a ruling that it finds in accordance with the children’s best interests. This means that a court could make a decision about child custody that is different than the agreement that you have with your spouse.
- Is the child custody ruling permanent? No. You can ask the court to revisit child custody arrangements after they are made. This may be important to you if you do not think you will be awarded your desired custodial rights after the divorce, but you hope to make changes to your living situation and get greater custodial rights in the future. Asking the court to modify your child custody, however, will typically take time and require you to pay court costs and often the costs of an attorney, so it is important to fight for the custody rights you need during the initial child custody hearing.
Even if you anticipate your divorce proceeding and child custody hearing to be smooth and easy you should strongly consider consulting with a family lawyer in New York, NY before heading to court. Emotions run high during divorce and child custody hearings, and you should be prepared for the unexpected.
Thanks to Okun, Oddo & Babat, P.C. for their insight into family law and child custody issues.