Child Custody Laws in New York

Daughter playing with chalk

If you are a current resident of New York and going through a divorce or custody battle, it is important for you to be aware of the New York child custody laws. These laws and regulations will directly affect the decisions of the court in your case. By eliminating the element of surprise, you will be better prepared for the many bumps in the road ahead.

What types of custody do New York child custody laws facilitate?


New York child custody laws allow for custody to be awarded in a multiple ways. These are typically standard for every state, though there are few states that do not follow these types of custody completely. Be sure to consult a family law professional regarding this if you live outside of New York.

Physical Custody:
A single co-parent may be granted sole physical custody of the child or children involved. This co-parent holds the responsibilities of the day-to-day care of the child. New York child custody laws designate this co-parent to be the custodial parent and the primary residence of the child. In this case, the courts will most often grant the non-custodial parent visitation rights with the child, unless the court finds this not to be in the best interest of the child. The alternative to sole physical custody is joint physical custody. This means that both co-parents are seen as custodial parents for the child. The child spends significant amounts of time with both co-parents as determined by the courts.

Legal Custody:
Typically, New York child custody laws will try to promote joint legal custody. Family law professionals see joint legal custody as being in the best interest of the child in most cases. Joint legal custody means that both co-parents share the ability to participate in the decision-making process for the child, such as health, educational, and religious decisions. The opposite, sole legal custody, means that only one co-parent has the ability to participate in the decision-making process. New York child custody laws and courts only enforce sole legal custody in extreme situations because they do not see it as in the best interest of the child.

Temporary Custody:
New York child custody laws and courts award temporary custody to one or both co-parents after a New York custody case is filed. Once the case is finished, the courts will award a custody order reflecting one of the above types, which will take the place of the temporary custody order.

How do the New York child custody laws and courts determine custody?

There are many factors, which play a role in a court’s decision-making process, most of which are used to determine the best type of custody for the child. Their goal is to choose the type of custody that will provide a stable and healthy environment for the child. These factors include the child’s age, physical and mental health, which parent is the primary caretaker for the child, the lifestyles of the parents, and so on. More information about how these decisions are made can be found at the New York child custody laws and courts page.

Once a final custody and visitation agreement is made between your co-parent and yourself there are many tools available for you to use to help you honor your agreement, create an organized parenting plan calendar to keep you on track, and help you communicate with your co-parent. Conflict management between your co-parent and yourself is often a struggle after a recent divorce. The Our Family Wizard Website® aims to greatly reduce this conflict with the use of these tools, providing a safe and healthy environment for your children. For information about additional states visit the Our Family Wizard page, Divorcing, what you can expect by state. After consulting an attorney about New York child custody laws, the next step is to determine your rights and responsibilities as a co-parent after finalizing your custody agreement.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.