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Key points about New York child custody and visitation hearings

In New York State, when there is a disagreement over custody and visitation of a child, it can be one of the most difficult issues to deal with. Emotions frequently become involved, the parents or other adults who are seeking custody and visitation can see their lives turned upside down, and the best interests of the children are often pushed off to the side rather than at the forefront where they should be. With a hearing centered around child custody and visitation rights, there are certain factors that must be understood.

If the parties are not able to agree, a judge will oversee a hearing. This will be referred to as an evidentiary hearing or a trial. At this proceeding, the judge will receive information about how best to serve the interests of the child. Visitation rights might also be determined at this hearing. When there is a custody or visitation hearing, there will be a judge, witnesses, a caseworker if necessary, an attorney for the child if the circumstances call for it and perhaps a guardian ad litem.

The judge decides on custody and visitation based on the child's best interests. Witnesses are often limited to the parents, but others can take part including relatives and others who understand the situation and have evidence to present. A case worker, a social worker or a mental health professional can provide a report about the parents and anyone else who is seeking custody or visitation. This individual might visit the parents' homes to gauge its suitability and check for problems. This person can also speak to others who are aware of the situation to garner evidence. An attorney who might be appointed for the child will represent the child independent of the parents. The GAL investigates the case and reports to the judge. The GAL might make a recommendation as to the child's best interests.

Parents often become so immersed in their position in a child custody and visitation case that they are not fully aware of the basics such as what happens at a hearing before a judge. This is an essential part of a case and should not be ignored. In a case for custody and visitation, all parties interested in maintaining a relationship with children should make sure to have an attorney to explain all the issues and help with a case.

Source: nycourts.gov, "The Custody/Visitation Hearing," accessed on May 22, 2017

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