The presumption of the Courts is that meaningful access between a parent and a child is in the best interest of the child, and is in fact a joint right shared by parent and child alike. “Meaningful” is interpreted by the Courts to mean “frequent and regular.” However, access must also be “reasonable.” Accordingly, the Court’s will encourage as much parental access as can be achieved without causing disruption to other important considerations such as school and access to the other parent.
As is the case with other family law conflicts, the Court will provide the parents with the opportunity to work out any agreement that fits their individual circumstances provided the agreement is, in the Court’s discretion, in the best interests of the child. Assuming both parents are suitably fit for unrestricted access to the child, a major factor that will be considered is the geographical proximity of the parents. When the parents are in close proximity, the non-custodial parent will often have alternating weekends, with pick up at the child’s school on Friday, and drop off at the child’s school on Monday. The non-custodial parent will often also have a weeknight for dinner every week. Holidays and school breaks are alternated between the parents on an odd/even year schedule, and summer breaks can be evenly split as well.
When the parents are not in close proximity, the Court will nonetheless strive to achieve meaningful access between the non-custodial parent and the child, often by providing the non-custodial parent with a greater share of the summer and school breaks. Responsibility for travelling with the child to accommodate parental access, and the cost thereof, will also be considered and appropriately allotted between the parents.
A good parental access order will provide a protocol for vacation travel with the child, giving both parents the opportunity to plan interesting trips with the child, providing for the sharing of the child’s passport, and imposing an obligation on both parents to give the other sufficient notice of upcoming trips, proof of round trip airfare, and appropriate information to ensure the non-travelling parent that the child is being well cared for, and to enable the non-travelling parent to contact the child during the trip.
Even when a parent is not fit for unrestricted access to a child, for example, when there have been acts of domestic violence in the presence of the child, or where there is proof of substance abuse, or other inappropriate conduct, the Court will nonetheless strive to provide access between that parent and the child while ensuring the safety of the child and the custodial parent. This can be accomplished via visitation sessions that are supervised by family members, or agencies that are dedicated for that purpose. With agency supervised visitation, there is usually a social worker who provides the supervision, and then provides a written report of the visit to the Court afterwards. It is extremely rare, even in cases of abuse or neglect of a child, that parental access is denied completely.
Can A Custody Order Ever Be Modified In New York? Why?
While an outright change of custody is rare once an order of custody has been rendered, the Courts recognize that the circumstances of life change as time goes on and children grow older, so modifications of existing custody and visitation orders are not uncommon. Just like the analysis required for an initial custody determination, modification disputes are resolved by the Court ascertaining whether changes, or the denial of changes, to an existing order are in the best interests of the child.
One fairly common modification dispute occurs where one party, usually the custodial parent, seeks to relocate the residence of the child. In relocation cases, the Court must weigh whatever benefits may accrue to the child if the relocation is permitted, versus any detriment the child may experience if access to the non-custodial parent is reduced or made more onerous.
For more information on Custody & Visitation Arrangements In NY, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 618-5995 today.
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