Achieving custody of a child can be a highly emotional battle between parents. Add to that a number of legal issues courts weigh to award custody and child custody cases can become daunting. This area of law significantly impacts the child's present well being and future.
In determining who gets custody, courts consider what is in the "best interest" of the child, which is a broad term that does not have a fixed standard and can take into account a number of considerations. Child custody law is complex, so to get the best result obtaining the services of a qualified Manhattan attorney who practices child custody law is imperative.
In every state, family court judges must consider what is in the child's best interests when determining custody. In most cases, judges emphasize making sure the child will spend ample time with both parents. To make this happen, a judge will likely want to know what each parent's home environment is like, whether each parent will be able to give a child the proper attention, and which situation the child will be most likely to thrive in.
If the parents are not married, the child's biological parents both have parental rights unless the law says otherwise. An exception to this could be if no father is listed on the child's birth certificate. In that case, the father would have to go through the legal process of establishing paternity to be able to assert his parental rights for visitation.
A mother can lose custody of her child in much the same way a father could. This could include abusing the child, abusing drugs or alcohol, providing an unsafe home environment for the child, or abandoning the child.
If you or your ex are unhappy with the current custody arrangement, you can negotiate a change to your agreement. If a judge feels that the changes are still in the child's best interests, then they may approve the order. If one of you is pressing ahead with seeking a change and the other parent is contesting it, you will need to prove a "substantial" change in circumstances. This could include one of the parents moving out of state, suffering from a disability or illness that affects their parenting ability, exposing the child to an unsafe environment, or having a change in work circumstances that requires rescheduling of visitation.
In legal practice, experience matters. An experienced attorney will likely have handled issues similar to yours many, many times. Therefore, after listening to your situation, the attorney should have a reasonable idea of the time line for a case like yours and the likely resolution.
The goal of an initial consultation is to find an attorney you are comfortable working with and someone who can help you understand your options under the law. Seek to understand the relevant legal experience the attorney brings to your case. While it is not realistic to expect an attorney to resolve your legal issue during an initial consultation, you should gain a level of comfort with his/her ability to do so. A good consultation can clarify issues, raise pertinent questions and considerations for your case, and help you make an informed decision towards resolving your legal issue.
For most consumer legal issues, the size of the practice is much less important than the experience, competence, and reputation of the attorney(s) handling your case. Among the most important factors when choosing an attorney are your comfort level with the attorney or practice and the attorney's track record in bringing about quick, successful resolutions to cases similar to yours.