What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean Under NY Custody Law?

When divorce and child custody is discussed, the phrase “best interests of the child” is a familiar refrain. But when parents often find that they are not certain what this phrase actually means under NY custody law.

The fact is, when it comes to custody and the best interests of children, the court has to go beyond simple facts and try to predict the future: The court is trying to determine what custody situation will be best for the child for years to come. For this, the court will seek to use a long list of factors.

Factors in Best Interest

Under NY custody law, the court considers the following factors to determine what custody decision will be in the best interests of the child:

  • The age of each parent.
  • Evidence of alcohol or drug abuse
  • The physical and emotional availability of each parent
  • The physical health of the parents
  • Any history or suspicion of domestic violence
  • Any prior, unofficial or written custodial arrangements
  • The respective finances of each parent
  • Any proven findings of child abuse or neglect
  • The home environment provided by each spouse
  • The observed mental and emotional state of each parent, including their observed behavior in court
  • The preferences of the child, though the court is not bound by this
  • Which parent has acted as primary caretaker prior to the separation
  • Religious issues
  • Whether the child’s siblings live with one parent or the other
  • Willingness to cooperate with the other spouse for the sake of the child’s relationship with their parent.

Under NY custody law, these and other factors may be considered when determining the best interests of the child.