Previously, we began looking at some of the factors judges consider when making child custody decisions in New York. As we noted, the central concern is always the best interests of the child, but judges will weigh a variety of secondary factors to ensure that any proposed parenting plan is really best for the child.

Despite the fact that judges have significant discretion in making child custody determinations, having an experienced advocate in the child custody process is certainly not unimportant. On the contrary, the fact that judges have discretion makes it that much more important to have an advocate. Although child custody decisions are not directly about the interest of the parent, there are several things an attorney can do to best position a parent for a favorable decision. 

First of all, an attorney can represent a parent in child custody proceedings by making sure the court has all the facts necessary to make a fair decision. This includes not only providing all the necessary facts about the parent and his or her relationship with the child, but also facts about the other parent and his or her relationship with the child. This is particularly important if there is a history of abuse or neglect which has gone unreported, or when there are false accusations of abuse or neglect. Along with this, an attorney will work so that the court gives appropriate consideration to factors relevant to the decision, rather than putting undue emphasis on one or two factors.

In addition to representing a parent in a child custody determination itself, an advocate can also assist by helping a parent appeal a child custody order when necessary and to seek modification of the order when circumstances change and modification becomes necessary. Regardless of the circumstances of the case, having a strong advocate at one’s side ensures that one has the best possible opportunity for a favorable outcome.