If you are considering getting divorced in New York, you may be wondering if New York is a 50/50 custody state. Many parents would prefer an equal 50/50 split of time with their child or children. New York family courts are not required to split custody equally between parents, but they prefer to allow both parents to be actively involved in parenting whenever possible. There could be other conflicts that make it difficult for the parents to split custody 50/50. Some of these conflicts can be negotiated or rectified, while others could be permanent obstacles to a 50/50 custody arrangement.

New York is Not a 50/50 Custody State

There is no automatic legal presumption in New York state that both parents should have a 50/50 custody split. Parents have the right to try to negotiate a custody agreement that works for both of them. Most of the time, family courts will accept a parenting plan that has been agreed to by both parents. Courts can finalize the parenting plan, making it a legal requirement that the parents follow the plan. If both parents would like to have a 50/50 parenting split, they can. However, in many cases, parents are not able to agree on a custody plan. Custody matters can be some of the most disputed and contentious issues in a divorce.

When parents cannot agree on their custody plan, a court will need to step in and determine custody for the child or children. When determining custody, New York courts weigh many different factors that help them decide which custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. The court may choose to split legal and physical custody equally between the parents, but judges are not required to do so.


Legal Custody and Physical Custody

In a custody agreement, legal custody and physical custody need to be addressed. New York judges commonly split legal custody evenly between the parents. In doing so, they allow both parents to have an equal say in the child’s upbringing. Legal custody refers to the power to make decisions about a child and how the child is raised. The issue of physical custody also needs to be addressed in the custody agreement. Physical custody refers to the child’s physical location and determines with which parent the child will live. Physical custody also involves a parenting schedule.

When parents have shared physical custody, this is also referred to as joint custody. Joint custody is typically preferred because the child will be able to spend time with both of his or her parents. In New York, judges rarely deny a parent from having any amount of physical custody. Judges want both parents to be active in their child’s upbringing, as long as doing so is safe and in the child’s best interest. 


Factors Courts Use to Decide Child Custody Matters

The specific division of parenting time depends on the court’s evaluation of the child’s best interest. Family court judges engage in a careful analysis to determine a final custody arrangement. Judges cannot presume that there should be a 50/50 split between the parents, however. When making child custody determinations, New York judges consider all of the following factors:

  • The length of time the child has lived with either parent
  • The child’s primary residence
  • Any special needs the child has  and each parents ability to meet those needs
  • The parenting skills of each parent
  • Any history of domestic violence from either parent
  • Any history of drug abuse or alcoholism for either parent
  • Siblings and whether or not the siblings should be kept together
  • The preference of the child, when the child is of the age and maturity level to have a preference
  • The ability of each parent to create a nurturing and positive home environment
  • Each parent’s work schedules, and
  • The physical and mental well-being of each parent

Judges are also allowed to consider any other Factor they deem relevant to making a sound child custody decision. Judges way all of these factors in light of the child’s best interest, which is not necessarily the parent’s best interest.


50/50 Custody is Not Always Practical

It may be ideal for each parent to have precisely the same amount of time with each child. In the perfect world, each child and each parent would spend an equal amount of time together, but this scenario does not always work in the real world. Most parents have different work schedules, and children may have different school schedules. Multiple schedules could require one parent to drop a child off and pick them up more than the other parent, allowing them to spend more time with the child. One parent may not have as much vacation time as the other parent, making it more difficult for the child to spend time with that parent.

All of these factors can throw off the 50/50 balance between both parents. Changing a work schedule or school schedule may not be in the child’s best interest. Additionally, doing so may not be legal or realistic. The older kids get, the more activities they are generally involved in, making it even more challenging to have a 50/50 split. Holidays are another hurdle parents need to encounter. Determining who will spend Christmas with the children and other holidays can be challenging. One of the best things you can do is keep an open mind and try to remember that you are working with your co-parent as a team to benefit your children.


Contact a Skilled Child Custody Lawyer Today

If you are considering getting divorced or would like to modify your child custody agreement, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact the Bronx-based Law Offices of Jason Lutzky today to schedule your free initial consultation to learn more about how we can advocate for you and your child.