Case law predominantly determines how the New York courts rule in child custody cases. This is because New York’s Domestic Law statutes do not provide much guidance in the way of child custody. As in most states, the best interests of the child form the benchmark and influence the court’s custody decisions. Several influential New York cases include:
- The case Braiman v. Braiman established the precedent that if both parents agree to joint custody, the Court will respect that decision and award it. In cases where parties cannot agree to a joint custody arrangement, courts consistently do not award joint custody.
- In the case Bennett v. Jeffries, the appeals courts set a precedent that protected a parent’s right to custody over someone who is not a parent. Reasons to deny a parent custody must include evidence of surrender, abandonment, persisting neglect, unfitness and unfortunate or involuntary disruption of custody over an extended period of time or other similar extraordinary circumstances. But even so, the court must weigh these factors against the child’s best interests. Courts cannot deny custody to a parent and award custody to a non-parent simply because it is a better decision when extraordinary factors do not exist.
- Eschbach v. Eschbach involved three daughters living with their mother and the two older girls ran away from home several times in protest because the mother refused to let them to participate in extracurricular activities and imposed severe limitations on them. The father sued for custody, basing the case on an adverse effect on his children’s emotional and psychological development. The final court’s decision was that while the mother was not unfit, she was the less fit parent. Consequently, the court awarded the father custody of all three girls. While not a sole determining factor, the girls’ communication breakdown with the mother and preference to live with their father had some influence. Also, the court considered that not separating siblings was in each child’s best interests.
If you have child custody concerns, discuss your situation with an experienced New York custody lawyer who can help you understand how NY laws apply to your case.