The Child’s Best Interest under New York Law

During divorce proceedings, New York State courts decide child custody arrangements based on the “best interest of the child” standard. This considers several non-weighted factors that can impact a child’s development and sense of security. Custody includes making health and education decisions for the child. If joint custody is awarded, both parents will share their caretaking responsibilities and decision-making authority evenly. 

In some cases, one parent may be provided with more responsibility than the other. In these cases, the best interest standard informs decisions regarding which parent is assigned as the child’s primary caretaker and how visitations are scheduled or outlined. An overarching factor that impacts all the other decisions involves maintaining stability in the child’s life.

If one parent has assumed most of the child-rearing responsibilities, this will be considered by the judge when deciding. The court understands that changes brought on by divorce can have a significant impact on a child’s emotional development and well-being. For this reason, judges are more likely to decide arrangements that will minimally disrupt the child’s daily life. For example, if one parent relocates after the divorce, this may affect their ability to be awarded sole custody, as the child must be uprooted to uphold this arrangement.

However, if the parents themselves have agreed to a custody arrangement, or the child is old enough to state their preferred living situation, this can also affect the final decision. Other factors may indicate that one parent is better suited than the other. If a parent has difficulty maintaining a safe and healthy home environment, or is managing an illness or mental health issue, it may be considered in the child’s best interest to stay with the more stable parent.

On the other hand, financial distress and illness alone are not sufficient grounds to deny a parent access to their child. The court does not look well at parents who interfere with visitation schedules, as this can disrupt the child’s ability to bond with the other parent. In cases where there is a documented history of abuse, either against the child or the spouse, the parent who committed the offense will be much less likely to be awarded custody. If a parent is accused of abuse during the proceedings, the court will investigate these claims. If they are discovered to be unfounded, it can hurt the accusing party’s case, as this can be interpreted as interfering with a parent’s ability to maintain a relationship with their child. 

Circumstances surrounding the children themselves are also considered. The court may examine both parents’ living arrangements to determine which situation would be best for the child. If one parent lives in a district with a superior school system, this may be a significant factor.

On the other hand, if the child has a cognitive or physical disability, the judge may award primary custody to the parent who is best able to accommodate the child’s additional needs. If either party has other children who are not directly involved in the case but are the half or full siblings of the child whose custody is in question, this can also be a deciding factor. Judges prefer to place children with their siblings, as this can provide a sense of stability.

How Divorce Impacts Children

East Rockaway, New York-based attorney Marc Rovner has led the multistage legal department for Beta Abstract LLC, a title insurance company, for more than almost two decades. In addition to his work as an attorney, Marc Rovner supports several child welfare charities, including the Children’s Rights Council. The organization provides resources to help families minimize parental conflict during divorce.

Divorce is always difficult for children. When parents separate, much of their children’s daily lives and routines are disrupted. The children may have to change schools, move, or travel between two houses. Some children may feel responsible for the divorce, while others feel angry and resentful.

Divorce can weaken the bond between the child and the noncustodial parent. All of these changes can manifest as poor academic performance, risk-taking behaviors, and mental health issues. Parents who separate peacefully and continue to cooperate in their parental obligations can reduce the stressors felt by their children. If necessary, parents should work with a therapist or social work to support their children.

Steps to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

An experienced legal practitioner, attorney Marc Rovner is the director of business development and general counsel at BETA Abstract, LLC. The title insurance company provides full service title, settlement, and closing services for commercial and residential real estate deals. A native of East Rockaway in New York, attorney Marc Rovner supports several charitable organizations, including the Children’s Rights Council. Established in 1985, the Children’s Rights Council (CRC) aims to ensure that children maintain a long-lasting relationship with their parents despite marital status or challenges.

One of the issues CRC tackles is child neglect and abuse due to parents’ separation or divorce. Child abuse entails every form of maltreatment of a child by an adult. Neglect is also considered child abuse since child abuse transcends physical violence. Child neglect implies the inability to provide for a child’s basic needs like health care, housing, clothing, education, and adequate supervision, among others. Some of the ways adults can help prevent child abuse and neglect are listed below. Report any child abuse or neglect case Concerned adults should call the local police or department of children and family services when they have reasons to believe a child might come to harm or is already abused. Calmly discipline children Always discipline your children when you have calmed down rather than when you are upset. Consider rewarding good behaviors as an incentive to improve your child’s behavior. Educate children about their rights Teach your kids how special they are and how it’s their right to be safeguarded from abuse and neglect. This practice will help them easily report an offender.

The Children’s Rights Council’s Safe Haven Centers

Attorney Marc Rovner of East Rockaway, New York, serves as general counsel and director of business development at the title insurance company BETA Abstract, LLC, where he oversees business development in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. A supporter of the Children’s Rights Council (CRC), East Rockaway attorney Marc Rovner earned the CRC Man of the Year Award in 2004.

CRC was founded in 1985 to protect the best interests of children and ensure they have fair access to both parents regardless of marital status. It accomplishes this goal via advocacy and its three Maryland-based access centers, where parents can facilitate the peaceful transfer of custody and conduct supervised visitation meetings if necessary. These access centers are known as Safe Haven Centers, and are operated in partnership with the Prince George’s County Circuit Court.

Supervised visits as long as four hours are offered at Safe Haven Centers every Saturday, and times are generally determined by judges. All parents visiting their children at these centers must review and follow the rules and guidelines, the most important of which is that no child shall be left alone. Moreover, parents and others approved by the courts are the only ones permitted at Safe Haven Centers.

The Children’s Rights Council Works to Strengthen Families

Children’s Rights Council pic
Children’s Rights Council
Image: crckids.org

Attorney Marc Rovner, a native of East Rockaway, New York, serves as the senior staff attorney at BETA Abstract, a title insurance company. Aside from his responsibilities as an attorney, Marc Rovner supports a number of charitable organizations, including the Children’s Rights Council (CRC).

Founded in 1985, the CRC is an internationally recognized organization that works to help and strengthen families, specifically those that have been impacted by divorce, separation, or abuse. CRC chapters across the nation and around the world provide parents with helpful parenting tools and legal resources.

The CRC also operates access centers, key components to helping maintain strong families. The access centers provide safe and neutral places for parents to have supervised visitation with their children. The staff at access centers is present to provide information that can help protect the rights and safety of both children and parents.

In partnership with community and faith-based organizations, 40 access centers are in operation across the country. The CRC also works for the rights of children and families by testifying before legislative bodies on issues such as access policies, joint custody, and welfare reform.