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Child Custody
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New York Child Custody

Divorcing parents with minor children will resolve issues related to child custody, visitation and child support as part of their divorce case. If parents are unmarried, then the mother or father will have to file a petition for order of custody with the appropriate New York Family Court. Grandparents and others who have significant relationships with a child may also petition for custody. A child custody attorney can represent you in court, explain your legal rights and obligations, and guide you through the process of establishing custody, paternity, support and visitation.

Child Custody Basics

If parents cannot reach a child custody agreement, then a New York judge will make a custody decision based on the best interests of the child. In awarding custody, the judge will look at a number of factors, including:

  • The health of both parents
  • Each parent's availability
  • Evidence of abuse or neglect
  • The environment at each parent's home
  • Which parent has been the child's primary caretaker
  • The child's preference

The judge may award joint custody to both parents-meaning they share responsibility for making significant decisions about how the child is raised. If joint custody is not appropriate, the judge will typically award sole custody to one parent.


When a child is born to married parents, New York law assumes the husband is the child's father. But when a child is born to unmarried parents, additional steps must be taken to legally establish the identity of a child's biological father.

In New York, there are several ways to establish paternity of a child:

  • The father can sign an acknowledgement of paternity
  • The court can issue an "order of filiation" declaring someone to be the legal father

Paternity must be established before a father can seek custody of his minor children. It must also be established before a father can be obligated to pay child support.

Child Support

In New York, child support is calculated based on both parents' combined income and the number of children each parent supports. The support amounts are:

  • 1 child: 17%
  • 2 children: 25%
  • 3 children: 29%
  • 4 children: 31%
  • 5 or more children: At least 35%

If parents have a combined annual income of more than $136,000, the court can deviate from these support amounts. The court can also alter the support amount to cover medical expenses, child care expenses, and educational expenses.

Find & Hire New York Child Custody Attorneys

Let help you hire a local child custody lawyer. Whether you live in New York City, Buffalo, Rochester or elsewhere in the state, we can quickly connect you with child custody lawyers in your area. To use our free service, call us at 877-913-7222 or complete the form on this page.