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Custody

A Custody Order gives responsibility for the child's care and how the child is brought up to one or both of the child's parents or to someone else. There are two parts of custody: (1) legal custody and (2) physical custody.

A New York court can make orders about the child's custody only until the child is 18 years old. The Court gives custody based on what is best for the child, this is called the "best interest of the child."

If there is no court order, then both parents have equal rights to physical and legal custody of the child.

 

Legal Custody & Physical Custody

Whoever has legal custody has the right to make important decisions about a child's care such as medical care or religious upbringing. If the Judge gives joint legal custody, the parents make major decisions about the child together. It doesn't matter which parent the child lives with; both parents must agree on the decisions together. If the Judge gives one parent sole legal custody, only one parent has the right to make major decisions for the child.

Whoever has physical custody, also known as residential custody, is responsible for the actual physical care and supervision of a child. If the Judge gives joint physical custody, the child lives with each parent for an equal amount of time. If the Judge gives sole physical custody, the child lives with this adult more than 50% of the time and this person is the custodial party and the noncustodial party will have visitation.

 

Help with Your Custody Order

If you don't have a custody order, you may have a choice of how to get started: whether to file a custody petition and have your case heard in front of a Judge or court attorney-referee or to have your case referred to mediation.

If you already have a custody or visitation order for your child from Family Court, you can use the Custody/Visitation Modification DIY Program to ask the court to change the order or the Custody/Visitation Enforcement DIY Program to ask the court to enforce it if it is not being followed.

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