Child Custody

Questions about child custody and visitation during a divorce? Get the answers you need from the family law attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, proudly serving New York and New Jersey.

What the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Has to Do with Divorce

Stressed man listening psychologist's analysis. Male patient lying on sofa during psychotherapy session.

NY & NJ divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner at the NY & NJ law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. Mr. Goldhamer was named by the prestigious as a “Super Lawyer” in 2014 for his work in matrimonial and estate law. Paul keeps busy with teaching, lecturing, charity work and as a guest on a wide range of media outlets.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-5,  is a published book describing mental disorders. It has been used as the “bible” for recognizing mental disorders. But it has been subject to severe criticism in the last 25 years, sometimes for excluding disorders and sometimes for including what may be in the normal range of human conduct. “Normal” cuts a wide swath.

Published first in 1953, it has gone through 8 reiterations, starting from a small pamphlet and growing to a 1000 page tome. Some diseases do not make it into the book and some work their way in over the years.

Big pharmaceutical  companies sell drugs that are cures to diagnosed illnesses. Insurance reimbursement is often contingent on conditions having a recognized diagnosis. Many psychological professionals disagree on the value of some of the diagnoses. The DSM always rears its head in custody cases. Let’s face it…no 2 adults parent the same way and often one parent objects to the other’s parenting style. Sometimes the objector is too rigid and imagines issues. Sometimes, a parent’s conduct is actually unsafe.

We at KGG help parents work out custody arrangements. Sometimes we must fight in court for our clients with skills acquired over 4½ decades.

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Child Support and the 2018 Tax Law: What Changes?

Rockland County divorce attorney Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a co-founder of the New York & New Jersey law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. Mr. Goldhamer was chosen as a “Super Lawyer” in 2014 by for his work in estate law and matrimonial law. He also maintains a packed schedule of charity work, teaching and guest appearances on radio and TV.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

Child support has always been nondeductible and remains so. But, clients must look closely at the tax benefits of different assets & how they affect the deal. Couples should weigh receiving the marital home as verse taking a portion of a spouse’s retirement plan. Often, the parent who has custody of the children wants the house. But, the tax changes adversely affect New York & New Jersey divorcing couples, because the deduction for high state and local taxes has been capped. This may make the family home less valuable in the long run. Spouses who get the retirement account will not be able to draw down on it until age 59½. But, they will have created a stronger retirement future. By not taking the house, you can avoid property taxes. This must be studied on a case by case basis.

Paying for a child’s education is also important. Given the changes in the tax laws, 529 college savings plans can be used for private school. They were limited to postsecondary and college education.

But, will there be enough money to pay for college? 529 plans require special thoughts. Who gets credit for the 529 as a college contribution? Does it cause a credit against Child Support? The new tax law is complex and the negotiation on the college contribution are challenging.

At KGG, we have been helping families plan their futures for 4 ½ decades.

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What Does Sole Legal Custody Mean for the Other Parent?

Child Custody and Visitation written on a paper and a book.In decades past, sole legal custody of young children was routinely awarded to the mother under what was referred to as the tender years doctrine. Today, sole custody is rarely awarded. If you have a sole custody situation, it is important to understand what your rights and responsibilities are. If you are in the process of negotiating a parenting plan, it is imperative to understand these factors before having a judge approve it.

The difference between legal and physical custody

It is important to understand the difference between legal custody and physical custody, and the ways they can be combined in a parenting situation.

Physical custody refers to where the child resides, while legal custody refers to decision-making authority. New York and New Jersey, like most other states, now strongly favor continued contact between each parent and his or her child. Depending on the geographical location and other factors related to the situation of the parents, courts will usually award either sole physical custody with joint legal custody or join physical and legal custody so that each parent can share, as equally as possible, in child-rearing.

When is sole legal custody awarded in NY and NJ?

Though it was common in years past, it is now extremely uncommon that one parent is awarded both sole physical and legal custody. It happens most often when one parent is deemed unfit to care for the children or to make decisions for them. The non-custodial parent will then be limited to time-sharing visits unless the court finds that supervised visits or suspension of time-sharing entirely is warranted.

If you are the non-custodial parent in a sole custody situation, it is crucial to follow the court’s order and make every effort to keep interactions with your ex and children peaceful. If you have time-sharing rights, it is important to exercise them and to speak with an attorney if you believe they are being violated.

How is sole legal custody awarded?

Judges can make a custody determination in a litigated divorce or parenting case. The order would then be binding unless the parties agree to change it or go back to court to litigate a modification.

More commonly, judges enter an order approving a parenting plan agreed to by the parents. However, it can be difficult to modify a plan you regret unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances. It is therefore a good idea to have a child custody attorney review your proposed parenting plan before agreeing to its terms, especially if it could limit your right to participate in decision-making.

Protect parental rights in Bergen County and Rockland County

Parenting plans are entered into every day but that does not mean they should be taken lightly. Once approved, they are fully enforceable and difficult to modify if the other parent is not in agreement. If you do not yet have a plan in place, or need to find out your right to request a modification, speak with the NY & NJ child custody lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman today.

Additional NY and NJ custody resources:

  1. Justia, 2009 New Jersey Code Title 9 – Children – Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts 9:2-4 – Custody of child; rights of both parents considered,
  2. New York Senate, Section 240 Custody and child support; orders of protection,
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How Is Child Custody Decided When Parents Live in Different States?

Child custody in divorce: Mother comforting her daughter, sitting in the bedroom, huggingIf you and an ex-spouse or divorcing spouse live in different states, you may be wondering how child custody is decided. It’s a good question, because states often handle custody very differently.

Custody Generally Follows the Rulings of the Child’s Home State…

Almost all U.S. states follow the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). According to the Act, custody will follow the determinations of the child’s home state. All custody hearings are physically held in the home state.

The child’s home state, in turn, is usually determined by where the child has lived for the last 6 months. That state’s jurisdiction will have priority over any other state, regardless of where the parents live.

So if your divorcing spouse lives in Florida but you and your children together live in New York, custody law will follow New York law.

If you and your children relocate to any other state, New York remains the children’s home state for six months. After that, the new state, provided the children are still living with you, become the home state.

…But Other Factors Can Be Considered in Deciding the Home State

But there are cases where these general rules may yield to other considerations. The UCCJA also places authority to determine which state is the child’s home state in the court’s hands. The court may consider multiple other factors, in this order according to the UCCJA.

  • The child’s relationships with other people in the state may also be a determining factor in deciding the home state. These connections may be with grandparents, doctors, teachers, other people, and friends.
  • Safety can be a determining factor. If an abusive former spouse caused you to move to another state to put distance between you, for example, the new state may be determined to be the home state.

If parents don’t agree on what the children’s home state is, they might both attempt to gain custody in their state of residence.

If that occurs, judges from both relevant states examine the evidence and decide which state should be considered the home state. Two states are never allowed to be the children’s home state, because of the possibility of conflicting or competing rulings.

If You Need a Divorce Lawyer in New York or New Jersey

At Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, our Rockland County, NY & Bergen County, NJ divorce lawyers have been helping clients with child custody solutions in New York and New Jersey for more than 40 years.

We are experts in child custody, visitation rights, child support, alimony and spousal support, division of marital assets, modification after divorce, parental relocation, and conservatorships.

Additional Resources

  1. Boyd, Karie. “How Is Child Custody Decided When Parents Live in Different States?” January 18, 2016.
  2. Smurda, Matthew. “Which State or Country Should Handle My Multi-State or International Child Custody Dispute?” October 31, 2016.
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Do You Have to Pay Child Support for a Child in College?

No doubt about it, raising children brings immense financial responsibility. Often, the responsibility does not end when the child legally becomes an adult. If you are wondering whether you need to continue to pay child support while your child is in college, the answer is: it depends.

Like a related question we hear often – “Can I stop paying child support when the child turns 18?” – the answer depends on state laws, the age at which your child is attending college, and some related factors. New York and New Jersey have differing rules so it is important to follow up-to-date guidelines for your state.

Termination of child support in New York

In New York, a parent must support a child until the age of 21. If the child is under 21, a parent is not obligated to provide support if the child is:

  • Married;
  • Self-supporting; or
  • In the military

In any of these situations, the child is considered to be “emancipated” so the parents are not obligated to continue paying support.

The child may also be considered emancipated if he or she:

  • Is between 17 and 21 years old;
  • Leaves the parents’ home; and
  • Refuses to obey reasonable commands from the parents

Therefore a New York parent will often be obligated to pay support for a child in college if the child is under 21 and not providing for his or herself. However, it is evident that there are other factors that can affect the responsibility.

New Jersey child support termination

In general, in New Jersey, the obligation to support a child lasts until a child turns 19 – but the full answer is, unsurprisingly, more complicated than that.

Until January 2017, a parent’s support obligation ended when a child turned 18, but on February 1, 2017, the age of termination was changed to 19. This means an obligation to support may automatically terminate when the child turns 19. However, the custodial parent can request continuation of support if the child is:

  • Still in high school;
  • Enrolled full-time in post-secondary education; or
  • Physically or mentally disabled.

In some cases, the obligation for support can end when a child turns 18 if the child financially independent. In this situation, a parent must file papers requesting that the court declare the child “emancipated.”

If your college student is under 19 or enrolled full-time, you may still be required to pay support to the custodial parent.

Understanding child support in NY and NJ

At the law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, we help New York and New Jersey residents understand their rights and obligations when it comes to child support, even as life circumstances change. Our divorce lawyers serve individuals and families from our offices in Rockland County and Bergen County. Call us toll-free at 888-624-4916 to schedule a private consultation.

Additional child support resources:

  1. New York State Legislature, Domestic Relations 240 – Custody and child support; orders of protection,
  2. Justia, 2015 New Jersey Revised Statutes Section 2A:17-56.67 – Termination of obligation to pay child support,
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What Not To Do In a Custody Battle

Photo of couple arguing

Litigation over custody is both complicated and emotional. That confusion and emotional involvement unfortunately leads many parents to take irrational steps that hamper their cases.

Keeping perspective when facing a custody dispute

It is common for parents to get caught up in a fight over parenting time and in the process lose sight of the impact it will have on their children and in the court. But just because something is common does not mean you should overlook it. We see too many parents fall into these traps that you should avoid:

#1: Put down the other parent

When one parent continually puts down the other, the child feels the need to choose between them. Courts look toward the best interests of the child and judges are reluctant to grant primary custody to a parent showing visible animosity toward the other because it is unhealthy for the children. It is good practice to keep your opinions to yourself.

#2: Try to handle it on your own

Even if you think you know everything there is to know about divorce and custody fights from reading articles, watching court television shows, or hearing about your friends’ legal battles, you do not. There will be legal implications to decisions that those who do not practice regularly in the family law realm will not comprehend. It is important to speak with a child custody lawyer because what you do now can impact your family arrangements for a very long time to come.

#3: Fight over everything

If ever there is a time to choose your battles, this is it. There very well may be issues worth taking a stand on but there are likely many more that are not crucial. In the adversarial process of custody litigation, too many parents fight over less important things that do not actually reflect the ex’s suitability as a parent. You may not like the variety of breakfast cereal your ex feeds your child for breakfast but it likely does not mean they are unfit to parent so learn to look the other way on nonessential topics.

#4: Lapse on your duties

The court process can lead some people to think of parenting as a transaction – if one parent has not made a child support payment, the other may try to withhold visitation, or vice versa. In reality, your duties are to your children so trying to punish the other parent by not following through on your responsibilities will hurt the kids – and you, since judges do not take kindly to these kinds of actions. Even if you do not think you are given enough time with the kids, make the most of it, follow through on scheduled calls, show up at soccer games, and keep paying your child support.

Child custody lawyers in Rockland and Bergen County

As committed child custody lawyers in Bergen County, NJ and Rockland County, NY, we at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, we know the potential case pitfalls that parents can fall into. We help clients understand how to put the best foot forward for a positive resolution. If you would like to speak with one of our child custody lawyers, call (201) 576-8134.

Additional Resources:

  1. Very Well Family, Dos and Don’t’s for Winning Child Custody,
  2. Huffington Post, What Not to Do in a Custody Battle,
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How Can I Change Child Support?

When employment changes and other shifting circumstances affect a parent’s financial situation, it may be time to examine child support payments and increase or decrease them accordingly.

Some of the most common reasons to change child support include:

  • A substantial change in income, such as that brought about by job loss or a promotion
  • Change in other support, like increased health care costs or a change in the amount of physical custody and related expenses born by one parent
  • Passage of time

Modifying child support can be a very fact-specific endeavor. An experienced child support lawyer can help a parent ensure all of the relevant factors are accounted for.

Options for changing child support

Child support can be changed by agreement between the parties or by asking the court to decide. In either case, the change needs to be formalized by the judge in a legally-enforceable order. The steps and requirements are different in each state so be sure that the family lawyer you retain is experienced in the state in which your original child support order was entered.

Child support modification in New Jersey

In New Jersey, a parent can request a modification at any time. The request must be filed with the court in the form of a motion or application. The court will schedule a hearing to take place about four to six weeks after the filing.

If both parties to the child support order agree to a change, they must submit a consent order to the court. The change becomes effective after the judge reviews the consent order and signs it.

Child support modification in New York

Child support modification in New York is a bit more structured than in New Jersey.

Either party can request a change based upon a substantial change in circumstance. If the prior order or agreement was not ordered before October 13, 2010, a party can also request a change if more than three years has passed since the order was entered or modified or if either party’s gross income has changed by 15% or more since the last order entry or modification.

The party seeking the change in support must file a petition for modification along with an affidavit and any documents that support the request. The court will issue a summons and serve the petition on the other parent. The length of time between filing a petition and the court hearing varies from case to case.

If the parties agree on the modification, they must stipulate to a modification petition and the judge can grant the petition without requiring a hearing.

How can a child support lawyer help?

An original child support order or a modification can reasonably be expected to impact the family for at least the following three years so it is important not to overlook any factors before reaching an agreement or taking a request to a judge. The family law attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have over four decades of experience in handling these sensitive family members, firmly representing clients’ rights while maintaining compassion and understanding.

Call us today to set up a consultation.

Additional “Child Support Adjustment” Resources

  1. New Jersey Courts, Child Support Enforcement,
  2. New York State, Child Support Services,
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Questions about Parental Visitation Rights

Divorce is never an easy undertaking, particularly when children are involved. Parental visitation rights can be one of the most emotional components to this process, as mother and father determine what is best for the children and the family unit in general.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with the idea of determining parental visitation rights, the attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have a few basic facts to keep in mind during the process.

What is visitation?

Visitation, also referred to as “access,” is the legal right of a parent that does not have residential custody to spend time with their child. This ensures the child has access to both parents after a divorce settlement without dispute as to where and when the child will be cared for. Visitation and custody are often determined simultaneously by the courts, although a request for visitation can also be filed separately. Visitation may also be requested by family members like siblings or grandparents of the child.

How is visitation determined?

Visitation can be “reasonable,” which means the parties involved determine when and where the visitation occurs. The visiting parent must provide adequate notice to see the child under reasonable conditions and at reasonable times under this agreement. If an agreement cannot be worked out among the parties, the court can also order the specific times the visitation will occur.

What is supervised visitation?

If there is evidence the child might be harmed in some way by the non-custodial parent, supervised visitation might be ordered by the court. In these cases, visitation is overseen by a third party like a social worker or another relative. Supervised visitation may be a permanent part of the custody agreement or a temporary part if the non-custodial parent petitions for a change in the future and can prove unsupervised visitation would be safe for the child.

Do I need mediation?

Mediation is a process in which a third party works to help the parents of the child reach an agreement on custody and visitation. While the mediator does not have the authority to issue court orders, or even provide recommendations to the court, this individual can facilitate communication between parents in an effort to help them come to an agreement. In fact, statements made during mediation may not be admissible in court, which encourages the confidentiality of the process and promotes healthy dialogue and conflict resolution in many cases.

Do I need legal representation?

While the parties involved in visitation matters may proceed without legal assistance, the advantages of professional legal representation cannot be underestimated. The complexities of visitation can confuse and overwhelm parents on both side of the custody agreement, which can make it difficult to understand all of the details once it is finally determined. Both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent can benefit from proper legal advice as they navigate the complexities of the legal process.

Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have ample experience working with parents on custody matters during divorce proceedings. For an assessment of your case and answers to all of your legal questions, contact our family lawyers in Rockland County, NY, or Bergen County, NJ, today at 888-311-4803.

Additional family law resources:

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Changes Ahead for Relocation of Children Law in New Jersey?

Two pieces of legislation pending in New Jersey have the potential to change the results of requests to relocate children under custody agreements. Currently, under the law established in Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001), the main case concerning relocation of residential custodial parents, custodial parents wanting to relocate have only to show that the move is being done in good faith and that relocation is not harmful to the child’s interests.

Both pieces of legislation, in contrast, rest on presumptions that being geographically close to both parents is in the best interests of the child. As a result, the proposed legislation would shift the issue concerning relocation from not being harmful to the child’s interests to the whether the move is in the best interests of the child.

A Balancing of Rights 

The legislation, if passed, might prompt a series of legal challenges from residential custodial parents seeking to relocate for job, family, or multiple other potential reasons.

Essentially, the different presumptions behind the existing law and the proposed legislation rebalance the respective rights in the parent-child triad. As a recent article in the New Jersey Law Journal noted, it may tip the scale unfairly toward the noncustodial parent and serve to make the custodial parent relatively immobile, perhaps unable to move for any reason as long as the noncustodial parent remains in New Jersey.

The Baures decision considered the well-being of the primary residential custodial parent. It also assumed that a determination of the best interests of the child in custody arrangements had already been made in the initial determination of which parent had custody. Both pieces of legislation focus more on the best interests of the child and on the bond between both parents and children. The resultant focus may somewhat undercut the well-being of the parent with primary custody and make the initial determination of custody less important.

Family court judges will have discretion to some degree. The New Jersey Law Journal, however, observes that the vagueness of the term “best interests of the child” and the higher burden of proof may result in “potentially unachievable” standards for primary residential custodial parents who want to move to another location.

New Factors to Consider 

The first piece of proposed legislation, S1493, was introduced to the New Jersey State Senate on February 16. It is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. S1493’s presumption is that joint physical custody is in the best interests of the child. The bill enumerates nine factors for consideration in arriving at a conclusion on whether the best interests are being served.

The second proposed piece of legislation, A339 and a companion bill, S1137, was introduced on January 27. It was referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee on that date. It requires the parent wanting to move to show that removal of the child from New Jersey is in the child’s best interests, rather than just showing that the relocation will not be harmful to the child.

Ironically, New Jersey law on parental relocation before Baures was thought to be unfair to the primary residential custodial parent; Baures was rectifying an inequity. The proposed legislation may prove inequitable yet again.

 Additional Resources:

  1. American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. “Parental Relocation Considered.” American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, New Jersey Chapter.
  2. Kornitzer, Robert B., Valery Jules McCarthy and Zachary Levy. “The Pendulum Swings Again in Cases of Child Relocation.” New Jersey Law Journal, October 31, 2016.
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Child Custody Laws in the New York State

Child custody

After parents’ divorce, a child needs a guardian to care for him/her. Child Custody Laws in New York State ensure that the child is protected and that both parents are able to relate to the child. In New York, neither parent has preferred right to custody over their child; either parent can apply for custody in family court. The court makes custody decisions in the best interest of the child.

Types of child custody

There are three types of child custody in New York:

Legal custody: A parent who has legal custody makes important decisions in a child’s life like education, religion and medical care.Often, parents share legal custody, which means that they discuss on important decisions in the child’s life, although one may give the final decision.

Physical custody: Physical custody determines which parent the child will live with. Sometimes one parent watches over the child on weekdays and the other parent on weekends.

Sole and Joint custody: Sole custody means that only one parent has custody over the child while in joint custody, both parents have custody over the child.

How the court decides on child custody

Child custody decisions are based on the standard of best interest of the child. The court considers the following:

  • The primary caretaker of the child, who spends most time with the child.
  • The parent who has physical custody of the child during the custody application.
  • The parent’s ability to care for the child.
  • Each parent’s mental health and physical well being.
  • History of domestic violence in the family.
  • If the parents are able to cooperate with each other.
  • The child’s desires; this depends on their age.

Visitation rights in New York

  • The parent who does not have physical custody of the child can get frequent and meaningful visitation.
  • Visitation rights can be denied if they cause harm to the child. Abusive parents can be supervised with day time visitations.
  • Grandparents and other non-parents are permitted to petition a court for visitation. Siblings may petition the court in the same way.

Custody and visitation can change based on important issues that affect the child’s interest or as the child grows older.

For advice and assistance on applying for child custody, Contact Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C, experienced family lawyers in the New York area. Call us at (845) 459-0001/201 690 7735 /800 711 5258

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