Yes. The courts can meet with the children in-camera, which means that only the children’s attorney is present. So this would only include the AFC, the judge, and the court reporter. The mother, the father, and the attorneys for each of the parents are not there. Obviously, as the child gets older, they have more input. Once you get to the point of the child who is 17 or 18, for all practical purposes, it doesn’t matter what the court’s going to say because at least in Manhattan, in particular, the children do what they want. Under New York law, a child is emancipated for all purposes at 18 except support. In New York, support runs to the age of 21. In many agreements, we extend that if a child will be in a four-year college, but not beyond 22, for instance. So, if a child graduates high school at age 18, and they’ll graduate college four years later at 22, that’s by agreement between the parties, but the court cannot order support beyond 21.
Will There Need To Be Any Specialist, Medical Or Otherwise, To Weigh In On The Best Interest Of The Child In A Custody Decision In New York?
Yes. The court on its own or by the motion of either party can appoint the forensic evaluator to assist the court in understanding the dynamic between the children, parents, and the parents individually. That person will testify, and their report will be presented in evidence. Either party can bring in a professional if they choose to, but remember, there is confidentiality, and certain things are not weighed when you call the witness. For example, when you bring in a child’s pediatrician, there may be occasions because the pediatrician has observed bruises on a child but did not make the report even though they are mandated to by law. Unfortunately, it happens today to a certain extent. Many children are in therapy, so it may be appropriate to have the child’s therapist testify in court about what they have observed in terms of the conduct between the parent and the parent children.
There may be various types of professionals called in to provide testimony to help educate the court as far as the needs and the safety factors involved in a custody proceeding.
Will Parents Need To See Any Professionals Or Specialists To Determine Who Is The More Fit Parent To Have Majority Custody In New York?
If the court appoints a forensic evaluator, the parents are then obligated to cooperate with the person appointed by the court. There are many times that parents, on their own, even before the divorce started or after it’s started, were seeing a therapist. On many occasions, you might want the parent’s therapist to come in to testify that they are in good mental health and competent standing to take care of their child or children. On many occasions, it might be appropriate to suggest to a parent when you know there’s going to be a custody battle to speak to a therapist; not for the sake of obtaining therapeutic help, but to get the skills and the tools to learn how to help your children negotiate through a divorce proceeding.
To any parent who is about to go through a custody proceeding, they have to understand it is not what serves the parent best but what is best for the child. They’ve got to take a step back and understand that child must come first. If it’s good for the child to spend time with the other parent, that’s what’s suitable for the child. You can’t let your best interest override the best interest of the child. That works to your detriment, and I will tell you that my most challenging job in the 52 years of representing clients is protecting them from themselves.
For example, seeing a court-approved therapist can be highly beneficial to your case. So while it helps the parent and child in their relationship, it also helps your client in terms of custody proceedings. On the other hand, there are also times not just for tactical reasons but because you sense that there is an issue that maybe your client should be in therapy for in meeting with your client.
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