Guilderland, NY – The days of two-parent households as the status quo are long gone. While many people are raising children as a “single parent”, there is often a second parent involved because of a separation or divorce from the other parent.
While “single parenthood” may be the norm, it still takes two people to be involved in creating a child; and the law gives both parents certain rights (and responsibilities), regardless of what your preference may be or the status of your relationship with the other parent.
The right to make decisions that affect the health and welfare of children is recognized as “legal custody”; these are considered the “major decisions” that affect children, such as medical treatment and where a child should attend school. Courts are often called upon to make a determination as to which parent should have legal custody of the children. The Court must make its decision based upon “the best interest of the child, and what will best promote [the child’s] welfare and happiness.” N.Y.D.R.L. Section 70(a).
When deciding the “the best interest of the child,” the Court will look at a multitude of factors; for example, the Court can consider the level of involvement each parent has had with the child, and the child’s relationship with each parent. The ability of the parents to communicate effectively and cooperate in making parenting decisions is especially important when a Court is determining whether “joint” legal custody is appropriate.
While the Court is empowered to make a determination of legal custody, a Court is loath to be the arbiter of disputes concerning day-to-day parenting decisions because these decisions are about the respective “parenting style” of each parent. Such decisions include what a child wears, what a child eats (e.g. candy or no candy), the style of a child’s hair, or whether a child’s ears should be pierced or fingernails painted. I spend a lot of time in Family Court and I often see people who come to Court because they disagree with the day-to-day decisions that the other parent makes.
When parents are raising children in two separate households, it is a common occurrence for one parent to want to dictate to the other parent what s/he does in his/her household. For example, one parent may want the other parent to limit the child’s use of electronics in his household or preclude the child from watching certain television shows or playing certain videogames. Not surprisingly, the other parent is rarely willing to agree to these types of provisions because they feel too “micromanaged.” Courts are not in the business of micromanaging parents, nor is there adequate relief for a parent that helicopter parents the other parent.
Raising a child with someone is often a challenge, and it is very important that when moving forward with starting a family that you and your significant other spend a great deal of time discussing your values regarding all issues, including your philosophy for parenting children. Failure to do this at the outset frequently leads to unhappy surprises and daily disputes for which there is no legal remedy.
Leyla A. Kiosse is a partner at Tabak & Kiosse, LLP, a law firm located in Great Oaks Office Park (near Crossgates Mall). Along with her partner (Margaret Tabak), Attorney Kiosse counsels clients on all matters related to matrimonial and family law. A Guilderland native, Attorney Kiosse received her undergraduate degree from Union College and her law degree from Albany Law School. If you have questions about a matrimonial or family law issue, contact Attorney Kiosse for a consultation by calling 464-4095 or by visiting the firm’s website, www.tklawllp.com.