There are two parts to custody: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.  New York State courts can make orders about the child’s custody until the child is 18 years old.  The court gives custody based on what is the best interest of the child.  If there is no court order, then both parents have equal rights to both physical and legal custody of the child.

Legal Custody

Whoever has legal custody has the right to make important decisions about the child’s care such as medical care or religious upbringing.  If the judge grants joint legal custody, then both parents must agree on decisions together, and similarly if the judge grants sole legal custody, then only one parent has the right to make major decisions for the child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is the responsibility for the physical care and supervision of the child.  When joint physical custody is ordered then the child lives with both parents for an equal amount of time.  Sole physical custody is where the child spends more than 50% of the time with one parent (the custodial parent), and the noncustodial parent will have visitation.


When one parent has sole custody of the child, the other parent or noncustodial parent has visitation.  The court will let the parent who doesn’t have physical custody to spend time with the child unless there is a good reason for the parent to not have visitation.  The court will order visitation if it is in the best interest of the child.


Parents must support their children financially until they are 21 years of age or emancipated.  If the child is under 21 and married, self-supporting, or in the military then the child is emancipated from the parents and the parents do not have to pay child support.

In general, the custodial parent can get child support from the noncustodial parent.  If the two parents were never married to each other, there must be an "Acknowledgement of Paternity" or "Order of Filiation" to establish paternity.  The custodial parent can get child support even if that parent can support the child on their own.  Even if the two parents are living together with the child, one parent can get a child support order if the other parent refuses to help pay for the child’s bills.

Child support can be ordered:

  • During a divorce case in Supreme Court

  • By filing a support petition in Family Court

  • By a written agreement between the two parents

Our Attorneys have years of experience and knowledge of Family Law in New York State.  If you are in need of help or are unsure about your specific situation, our consultation is free to discuss your circumstances and provide you with the options on how we can best help you through the court system.

Mom and a Child



What are the father’s rights?

  • When awarding custody and visitation in NY State, courts do not favor one parent over the other.The court awards custody and visitation based on what is the best for the child, and the judge will look at many things to figure out what would be the best interest of the child.

How much child support should be paid?

  • Generally in NY State, the court uses a standard guideline to calculate what the noncustodial parent must pay based on the adjusted gross income and on the number of children involved.The percentage of the adjusted gross income is 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and at least 35% for five or more children.

Should I file for child support by myself?

  • Because of the complicated rules for assessing child support it is best to hire an Attorney with experience.There are a lot of potential issues in determining child support like how to accurately assess the adjusted gross income for the noncustodial parent, especially if the noncustodial parent is paid in cash, or whose income fluctuates, or self-employed people.