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How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody in New York City?

Posted on April 26, 2022

Domestic violence can affect the outcome of a child custody case in New York.  Just what impact domestic violence has on child custody is determined on a case-by-case basis by the family court judge.  

The following is an overview of domestic violence and orders of protection in New York child custody cases and a brief explanation of how evidence of domestic violence is used in a child custody ruling.

What is Domestic Violence in New York?

Domestic violence is one of several factors the New York family court may consider in a contested child custody case.  Domestic violence is violent or abusive behavior in the home used by one person to gain power and control over another person.  

While domestic violence often involves significant others, this is not always the case.  Domestic violence can take any form, including:

  • Physical abuse;
  • Sexual abuse;
  • Emotional abuse; 
  • Economic abuse; and
  • Psychological abuse.

When one parent is an alleged abuser with a pending criminal case and a custody case, both cases may be heard together in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court.

How Does the Family Court Decide Child Custody in New York?

Parents who cannot agree on a child custody arrangement must ask the family court to make a child custody plan on their behalf.  The court will review the custody case and decide what is in the best interests of the child.  

The best interests of the child include all relevant case facts and circumstances.  Common considerations of the court include, but are not limited to:

  • The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent (no alienation);
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and other members of their household; and
  • Each parent’s ability to care and provide for the child.

The court takes any allegations of domestic violence and child abuse by either parent into account when making a child custody determination.  If one parent alleges the other parent committed an act of domestic violence, they must prove domestic violence occurred by a preponderance of the evidence.  

Evidence used by a parent to prove domestic violence may include any of the following:

  • Photographs of injuries;
  • Video;
  • Recordings;
  • Threatening text messages and emails;
  • Police reports;
  • Existing or prior orders of protection;
  • Family offense petitions; and
  • Sworn statements from witnesses of abuse.

The Effect of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Arrangements in New York

Since it is typically in a child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with both parents, a parent guilty of domestic violence may still receive some form of visitation.  In some situations, that parent may even receive child custody.

If a parent can prove their child’s physical, mental, or emotional health would be in danger if left alone with the other parent for any significant amount of time, the court may require supervised visitation or other restricted parenting time.  This is typically only a temporary order until regular visitation can safely be awarded.  

A parent may request that any parenting plan include pick-up and drop-off locations for their child at safe, neutral places like police precincts, fast food restaurants, or other public areas.

Contact an Experienced New York Domestic Violence Attorney Today

Regardless of your position in a domestic violence child custody case, you need experienced legal representation on your side.  At the Law Offices of Vivien I. Stark, our domestic violence attorneys will assist you in gathering the evidence needed to protect your child while proving you deserve extensive child custody and visitation.

Contact the Law Offices of Vivien I. Stark, P.C. to schedule your confidential consultation today and learn more about how New York’s domestic violence laws play a role in your child custody case.

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