Complicated Custody Cases

On February 20, 2018, Attorney Chaim Steinberger presented to a chapter of the American Inns of Court at the Brooklyn Bar Association on the factors that New York Courts consider when determining custody.  Courts must always consider “the best interests of the child,” Mr. Steinberger noted.  That means that anything that affects a child is a factor that can come into play in a custody dispute.

Mr. Steinberger’s handout consisted of an Overview of the Custody Factors that New York Courts consider.  Because there are so many factors some of which might favor one parent while others, perhaps, favor the other, and because there is no set value system assigned to each factor, a skilled lawyer is needed to help parents understand how their individual case might play out to the judge.  Ultimately these matters are assigned to the “sound discretion of the Court” so a skilled lawyer must know how to present the evidence in its best light, so that the judge is convinced of who the better parent is.

“The practice of law is not like arithmetic,” Mr. Steinberger is fond of saying.  “You can’t just pipe up and say, ‘2+2, your Honor,’ and have the judge respond, ‘4, of course.’  Rather it’s like a chess game, with thrusts and parrys which means that not only are the facts important but how they’re presented and the order of their presentation can be critical to success.”  That is particularly true in custody disputes.  Every custody dispute is complicated.  The outcome is contingent on the personality of the child and the personalities and behavior of each of the parents.  Because there is so much riding on it, parties contest these issues fiercely.

As in any complicated litigated matter, a parent needs a lawyer who knows not only the law, but also the many minute details that make up the relevant facts.  The lawyer must master the facts, and then fashion a winning theory of the case (see point 2 of How to Win the Unwinnable Case).  The lawyer must then present them to the Court in a persuasive, compelling manner, while fending off all of the counterarguments.  This is not a job for the faint of heart or character!

If you would like to discuss how these Custody Factors apply in your individual case, feel free to call our office at (212) 964-6100.