As an experienced Long Island Child Custody Lawyer, litigator, and mediator, Mr. Darren M. Shapiro frequently finds himself dealing with cases that include unmarried parents, divorce, and the complications associated with caring for children following a divorce. There is often more at stake when children are involved, as they force mothers and fathers to think not only about the measures that must be taken to protect their own best interests, but the things that they must do to look after their children's interests too.
The New York court uses the standard of "best interests" for the children, in order to make decisions regarding child custody, parenting time and visitation. Though, in an ideal scenario, fathers and mothers seeking divorce would be able to make agreements about custody, child support, and parenting time or visitation using the amicable process of mediation or collaborative law - this is not always possible, and Mr. Shapiro has seen various cases that need the input of a Supreme Court or Family Court judge. When a judge becomes involved in a child custody or visitation case, they will be required to consider various factors, all designed to outline the best interests of the child. One of these factors is known as the "primary caretaker" standard, and it requires the judge to determine, primarily, who cared for the child most, in a variety of different circumstances, during the time before the divorce.
In Mr. Shapiro's experience, child custody cases in the New York Supreme and Family Courts tend to show some significance towards evidence that a parent was the primary caretaker for the child in question, during the time of the marriage. If the parents were unmarried, then the court will still allow an individual to prove that he or she assumed the role of primary caretaker. The primary caretaker role started to be recognized by the court when psychologists throughout the country began to underline the importance of the bond that exists between children, and their primary caretaker. Indeed, according to psychological experts, the bond that exists between a child and his or her primary caretaker is suggested to be quite influential in the development of the child. This means that when considering the best interests of the child standard, courts must consider the effect of the primary caretaker on the psychological growth and stability of the children or child in question.
Importantly, primary caretaker titles do exist beyond the circumstances of child custody and visitation laws. It is possible for an individual to declare him or herself to be the primary caretaker for an elderly individual, for example, if the elderly person in question is otherwise unable to physically, financial, or emotionally support themselves without the care of the person in question.
Though the concept of the primary caretaker in custody and child visitation cases is important, it is complicated. There are numerous things indicators that may point to who was the primary caretaker for the child in question. In court, the burden of proof will typically come down to each parent who is fighting for custody of the child to show that their wishes are in the child’s best interests. This individual may want to demonstrate how the duties of their parenthood have been divided over time between their partner and themselves, during the course of the child's life. As Mr. Shapiro explains to his clients, they may want to illustrate how they were able to contribute to the development of the child, looking after him or her on a parental level with tasks such as:
- Caring for the child during times of ill health
- Planning and participating in leisure activities
- Attending teacher and school meetings
- Promoting and encouraging access to extracurricular activities
- Teach reading, writing, and math skills, or helping with homework
- Completing laundry tasks and purchasing clothing
- Preparing and planning regular meals
- Grooming, dressing, and bathing.
To most people, the activities that define a primary caretaker are simply the standard activities that a person would expect to complete during their time as a parent. Of course, it is worth noting that depending on the court in which your case is held, some other factors may be considered regarding what is deemed to be the correct behavior of a primary caretaker.
In all cases, the consideration of who can be defined as a primary caretaker for any child is only one factor to be considered in an effort to figure out who can provide best for the child when given primary custody. Of course, it's worth noting that it's not always simple to answer the question of "Who is the primary caretaker?" In many circumstances, there are families wherein both parents have been equally involved in the process of looking after a child during the course of his or her life. In these circumstances - and even in cases where the primary caretaker is clear, the court of New York will be required to take other factors into consideration that contribute to the best interests of the child, including things such as, the child's individual preferences if they are of an appropriate age, the health of the parents, which parent can provide emotional and financial stability, and any history of abuse towards the children by either parent. Other considerations might also include which parent will continue to provide further opportunities for interaction with the other parent for the child.
The various considerations that are involved with defining the best interests for a child in a custody or visitation case can be very complicated and difficult to understand without the correct guidance and help. To learn more about custody matters and the best interests of children in various family law or divorce cases, please feel free to reach out to Mr. Darren M. Shapiro for help and advice. You can either get in touch over the phone at (516) 333-6555, or choose to complete our handy online form. We offer free initial consultations, up to a half hour.