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Sue Mayo Smith

Understanding Divorce & Separation: Child Custody and Parenting in NY State

Roberta Feldman explains child custody law in New York State


“My name is Roberta Feldman. I am an attorney with Gray & Feldman in Penfield, NY. One of my jobs, when I have a client come in for an initial consultation, is not only to make them feel comfortable but to educate them.  And today I am going to talk about custody and parenting. Custody is a major component of every divorce or separation as well as out-of-wedlock situations where I have had parents come to me in those cases as well.”   

“Now, custody relates to every child under the age of 18 so emancipation does not occur until the child reaches the age 18. In most cases today, the result is joint legal custody.  That means that both parents have an equal say in the major decisions affecting their child or children. And those are religious, medical, educational, and extra-curricular activities.  It does not include the day-to-day activities where the parent who has the child in residence is able to make those decisions. And it does not mean equal time sharing. So the residency arrangement, which is necessary before the case can be finalized, is unique to each family. Now I have dealt in collaborative law where the two parties, the parents, husband and wife, or same sex couples, sit down together with their attorneys to resolve those residency arrangements. And that, as I said is unique to each family. And that is why collaborative law is such an excellent process because in court it doesn’t always end up the way you want it to.” 


“So how do you come up with a schedule that works? The old way was what they called the “Tender Years Doctrine” and that was for infants and young children – they would normally go with the mother.  That doesn’t take place anymore today. The standard is “best interest of the child.” So in most cases there is some sort of, I’m not going to say equal time sharing, but some residency arrangement that gives each parent time with the child or children. And with creativity, you can even come up with solutions where a parent would have a child for one night, and the other parent might have the other child so that there is some one-on-one time. But there are many different ways to resolve and including summers, vacations, holiday, and all of those are dealt with in our custody settlements.” 

“And as far as, where does it go from there, when you have young children, what happens when they are teenagers; custody and visitation are always modifiable. Because, again, the standard is, “best interest of the children.”  So I want to thank you for watching and more information can be found at our website www.gfrllp.com or call 585-218-8620. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced rate.” 


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