Are Your Child Custody Demands Hurting Your Child?

The most prophetic things any judge ever said to me about custody was “do you hate the other person more than you love your child? If so, you will do anything that hurts him/her.”  Consider: are your negative feelings towards the other parent greater than your love for your child?

Many people come into my office and tell me that they want 50/50 custody; or primary custody.  While for some families equally sharing time is an excellent arrangement, there are many factors to be looked at when determining what is best for a family.  Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Responsibilities- Over the course of the lifetime of your child, have both parents been equal caretakers? This does not just mean the occasional push on a swing, but who does the nuts and bolts such as making appointments; taking children to the doctor; attending school functions; being involved with the child’s school and friends, bathing, dressing, feeding.  If one parent has primarily done this, and you share custody, how are you going to divide up these tasks?  Does one parent still bear the responsibility as “administrator” for the other parent?  If you are not willing to do the grunt work, what is it that you are seeking in your custodial arrangement?
  1. Is this about money? – Many times the primary wage earner expresses to me that s/he wants to equally share custody in order to not pay or reduce child support.  However, the leading authority[1] in this area still provides that the full amount of child support is paid by the primary wage earner, even if there is equal custody.  While there are deviations to this, many of those deviations involve sharing other expenses.  Is reduced child support + other expenses =less support than you would pay?
  1. Spite – If one person has been the primary caretaker of the children, perhaps left the workforce to do so, or “lives” for the children, what would hurt her more than losing the role of primary custodial parent?
  1. Geography – Where will both of you live? Joint custody generally works best when both parents live in the same school district, so that the child is easily transported to school, either by car, or can take the bus to each parent’s house.  However, if one parent is going to live in Albany and the other parent in Glens Falls, where is the child going to school?  Will this impact the child’s ability to participate in extracurricular activities, visit friends, etc.?

Ideally, children should have the opportunity to spend ample time with each parent.  The quantity may look different for each family, but the schedule should allow the child as much quality time with each parent as possible. Falling into a cookie cutter trap as to a particular schedule because you hear it advertised may not be the best thing financially and emotionally for you or your children.

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[1] Baraby v. Baraby, 250 AD2d 201 (1998)

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