When making a custody determination, the court must focus on the best interests of the child and consider a myriad of factors including the stability of the parents, issues of alienation, issues of domestic violence, of relocation, etc.
In addition to determining custody, the court must set a parenting time schedule for the non-custodial parent and can impose limitations on either parent. For instance, the court can award custody to one parent but not allow that parent to remove the child’s or children’s residence beyond a certain radius. This is called a radius clause. A court can also put restrictions on the parties’ ability to travel with the child or children and can impose other such restrictions.
When a custody action is commenced, the court will usually appoint an attorney for the child or children whose sole responsibility in the action is to represent the children’s interests. That attorney is the only attorney permitted to speak to the children about the case and surrounding circumstances.
At the end of the custody trial, the court will usually speak to the child or children in chambers outside of the presence of the parties and respective counsel. The attorney for the child will be the only attorney present during that in-camera interview. The attorney for the Petitioner and Respondent can submit questions for the court and the attorney for the child to consider asking the child during an in-camera interview. The court’s in-camera interview with the children is just one factor for the court to consider along with all the other relevant factors.
Before the judge decides the case, and after having heard all the evidence and closing statements from the attorneys, the attorney for the child or children will make a recommendation to the court, which is but another factor.
It is always advisable to get legal advice from an attorney of your own choosing when dealing with a divorce or Family Court matter. Your attorney’s primary concern is to advise you as to what is in your best interest now and in the future. What a friend may tell you from his or her experience, or what happens in a television show, are not necessarily in your best interests. An experienced attorney with a strong legal background in matrimonial and family law, such as myself, is better able to help you.
If you need legal representation concerning a divorce or Family Court matter, I invite you to contact my office to set up a free consultation by calling 631-588-3155. I have been handling divorce and Family Court matters for nearly 30 years here on Long Island and wrote a book about divorce and family law titled Divorce: A Practical Guide, which is available at Amazon.com.