When Will Courts Uphold NY Divorce Mediation Child Custody Agreements?

Children Custody

In New York, the parties involved in a divorce have the opportunity to keep their issues outside of the courtroom, by entering into mutually-acceptable and negotiated agreements. The process of agreeing on terms for the divorce outside of the court is known as divorce mediation, and it's a service that Attorney and divorce mediator Shapiro offers as a trained mediator. For the most part, the agreements made in a divorce mediation session will be upheld by the courts of New York, as long as the judges do not identify major issues with them. However, it's important to note that the New York court will retain jurisdiction over certain issues.

When clients come to divorce mediator Darren M. Shapiro, Esq. for their divorce mediation, he often reminds them that the agreements made during mediation are held to specific standards. For instance, when it comes to determining issues for child custody, the parties involved in a divorce will be free to discuss their issues with mediators like Mr. Shapiro. In a safe and objective environment, the two spouses can come up with an arrangement that's suitable for both parties. However, under the family law demands of New York, the courts must be able to ascertain that the agreement is in the best interests of the children. If a separation agreement provides for an arrangement of custody or parenting time that the courts don't believe is right for the children, then the agreement may not be enforced.

One additional point to keep in mind when regarding child custody agreements is that the location where the child will live will also be subject to the analysis of the court under the "best interests" standard. Once a divorce or separation agreement has been accepted by the New York court and incorporated into the full divorce proceeding, the terms of that agreement will remain in effect until there has been a substantial change in circumstances and either an agreement is made to modify it or the court does so in the best interests of the child or children.

Child Custody Agreements and Jurisdiction

Often, when discussing the nature of child custody agreements in divorce mediation, mediator Shapiro will draw attention to previous cases that might illustrate how the New York court can handle requests to modify or adjust decisions around custody. One particular case is useful to consider in this article. In the case, the separation agreement between a father and mother with two children dictated that the parties would maintain joint custody over both children. The agreement outlined that the mother would have primary physical custody, although, at the time, both the father and mother were living in the same town, no more than four miles from each other. When the divorce went through, the mother was also working from home, which meant that she could care for the children.

Some time after the divorce, the Father in the case above purchased a new property less than a mile from the Mother's house, and the mother stopped working from home and began to spend more time at the office. During this time, the father did not work, and he filed for a modification of the custody order, claiming that the purchase of a new home closer to the mother was enough to suggest a change in circumstances. The father also argued that his lack of work meant that he had more time to spend with the children. The court didn't agree with this definition of a substantial change in circumstances and upheld the terms of the custody agreement.

As Attorney Shapiro explains to his clients, when he is employed as their lawyer, as opposed to when he is a neutral mediator, in this case, the court were able to argue that an approved child custody agreement could only be modified when the party requesting the information can show that there has been a substantial change in the circumstances. They also noted that the modification needed to be something that improved the lives of the children and was obviously within their best interests. Additionally, the change would also need to implicate the fitness of the parent who had physical custody of the child or suggest a change to the nature and quality of the relationship between the noncustodial parent and children.

In this particular case, the court found that the father was unable to prove that his purchase of a new home closer to the Mother's house would have a substantial impact on the lives of his children. Although, the court also acknowledged that moving closer to the mother would mean that transitions between both households would be easier. However, according to the case, the courts believed that it wasn't a change significant enough to justify the modification of the agreement. Additionally, the courts felt that the mother spending time outside of the home to work didn't mean that she could no longer parent the children. Though the father's circumstances had changed, the children's had not.

Do You Need to Modify a Custody Agreement?

Divorce agreements and orders can withstand modification whether they were arrived at through divorce mediation or through more traditional court proceedings. However, they can be modified if there is a substantial change of circumstances and it is in the best interests of the child or children to change it. If you're currently divorced and you think that it's time to reconsider your custody agreement with your ex-spouse, then the couple can consider working with mediator Darren Shapiro or an individual can hire child custody lawyer and/or review attorney like Darren M. Shapiro. As a dedicated Nassau County and Long Island Divorce mediator, Lawyer Shapiro has helped countless families and individuals with a range of divorce, separation and child custody issues. Find out more about how Attorney Shapiro's team can help by calling on (516) 333-6555 or using our contact form schedule your free initial consultation of up to a half hour.

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