How New York Courts Define and Determine a Child's Best Interests


New York courts consider a child’s best interests to be paramount in custody and visitation cases. While there is no standard definition for exactly what a child’s best interests entail, judges typically consider how their decision would affect a child’s overall health and safety.

What Affects a Child’s Best Interests?

The health and safety of a child are relatively broad criteria for courts to use as a deciding factor in child-related cases. As such, the judges perform a more in-depth, wholistic review each parent’s life and consider how the child’s health and safety would be impacted in each parent’s care. There are a number of factors that could affect a parent’s ability to protect the child’s best interests, such as:

  • Childcare consideration: Both parents often have to work in order to support themselves and their child. The court will take into account the daycare or afterschool care plans each parents have in place.
  • History of abuse, neglect, or abandonment: If one parent ever abused, neglected, or abandoned the child, they will be less likely to receive custody.
  • History of drug or alcohol abuse: If either parent has a history of abusing drugs or alcohol, it will jeopardize their likelihood of receiving custody as courts fear it may endanger the child.
  • History of spousal abuse: Any evidence of domestic abuse will affect the abuser’s likelihood of being awarded custody, especially if any instances of spousal violence occurred in front of the child.
  • Mental health of the parents: If either parent has a mental illness or personality disorder that has been left untreated, it could lessen the likelihood that they will be awarded custody.
  • Physical health of the parents: If either parent has an illness that makes it difficult to provide a child with the care they need, their custody allowances could be limited.
  • Stability: The court will usually strive to offer some continuity and stability to the child by awarding primary custody to the parent who has had a more active role in their upbringing thus far.

Neither parent has an advantage in child custody cases based on criteria like the parent’s gender. Mothers are not preferred over fathers. It simply comes down to which parent is more likely to provide their child with the care and love they require based on the evidence provided to the court.

Defending your ability to protect your child’s wellbeing is essential in your quest for custody. Contact Empire Law for help making your case and protecting your place in your child’s life today.

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