How to Petition for Sole Custody in New York

By Brenna Davis

Sole custody is a custody arrangement in which one parent has sole decision-making authority over the child in addition to providing the child's primary residence. The other parent is almost always awarded some form of visitation. Because custody disputes can be complex and stressful, it's wise to hire legal counsel if your ex does not want you to obtain sole custody. However, you can begin the process on your own.

About Sole Custody

Sole custody grants one parent sole legal and physical custody of the child. Legal custody governs decision-making authority, while physical custody governs where the child lives. Sole custody does not necessarily mean that the non-custodial parent never sees the child, but does significantly limit their time together. Some sole custody arrangements completely eliminate visitation altogether. Parents petitioning for sole custody should think carefully about whether the arrangement is in their child's best interests.

Sole Custody Petition

Custody and visitation matters are heard in the family division of New York state's supreme court. To file your petition, ask the clerk in the county in which the child resides for a petition for custody. Fill out the form in its entirety. State law also requires that you attach a parenting plan to this petition. Parenting plans provide details about visitation and time with each parent. The clerk can provide you a parenting plan or you can draft one yourself. Return the petition and parenting plan to the clerk and pay the filing fee.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Court-Appointed Experts

In New York family courts, the opinions of experts are given significant weight. Judges are authorized to appoint child experts to submit reports to the court or file motions on behalf of the child. A guardian ad litem -- an attorney hired to represent the child's best interests -- may be appointed to make a recommendation to the court after investigating the case. It is wise to be respectful and courteous to the guardian ad litem, even if you disagree with her. Similarly, judges may appoint psychologists to conduct mental health evaluations of each parent. You should attend all sessions with these psychologists and provide any information you have about your child's psychological state and how the custody plan you propose might improve it.

The Hearing

Judges frequently order parties in custody disputes to attend mediation with a court-appointed mediator. If you are unable to settle your case in mediation, it will be scheduled for a hearing with a judge. At the hearing, you must argue why sole custody is in your child's best interest. You may call witnesses, present evidence and question experts such as psychologists and social workers. If you are requesting sole custody without any visitation or with supervised visitation, you must demonstrate why time with the other parent is detrimental to your child. If there has been any abuse, bring police and medical reports documenting it.

Judge's Order

After hearing evidence, the judge will issue a final custody order. If you do not abide by this order, you can be held in contempt of court. The order will outline physical and legal custody and visitation. If your ex's visitation rights are completely revoked, the order may be a temporary order that allows your ex to seek visitation again after a set period of time or after your ex has completed certain requirements such as counseling or drug rehabilitation.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to File for Sole Custody & Supervised Visitation in New Jersey
 

References

Resources

Related articles

How to Apply for Sole Custody in Baltimore, Maryland

In some cases, sole legal custody or sole physical custody is in the best interests of a child. For a parent wishing to establish or modify custody in Baltimore, Maryland, the first step involves communicating to the court the specific reasons for the proposed arrangement. The other parent must then be made aware of the proceedings, and the parties can attempt to reach an agreement. If no agreement is reached, the court will make a determination based on what the judge believes is in the child's best interest.

How to Fight for Child Custody in Wisconsin

While most states use the "best interests of the child" standard in making custody determinations, Wisconsin has an additional requirement governing custody decisions. Judges in the state are required to assume that joint legal custody, which grants equal decision-making power to each parent, is in the best interests of the child until proven otherwise. Thus, parents in Wisconsin are less likely to find themselves fighting for visitation because visitation is always part of joint legal custody. However, physical custody – whom the child lives with – is still governed solely by the best interests standard. Parents seeking custody of their children must prove that the arrangement they desire is in their children's best interests.

How to Change My Child's Last Name If I Have Sole Custody

Your legal right to change your child’s last name does not depend on your custody arrangement. Even if you have sole legal and physical custody, the court might not allow you to change her last name if her other parent maintains a frequent and loving relationship with her and if he objects. Your odds increase somewhat if you can prove your child will benefit from the change.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Get Child Custody If a Parent Refuses to Sign the Papers

Because child custody disputes can be contentious and stressful, family courts encourage parents to settle their ...

Father's Procedure in Filing for Child Custody in Missouri

Child custody decisions in Missouri are made according to the child's best interests, and the procedure for both ...

Checklist for Full Custody Hearings in Ohio

In Ohio, each parent has equal rights to the child and courts almost always give visitation to the non-custodial ...

Illinois State Laws on Obtaining Sole Custody

If you're contemplating divorce or about to start the process, you may be feeling a bit uncertain or even overwhelmed, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED