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Divorce is difficult no matter how many people are involved, but when children come into the picture Things become much more complicated. It is important to know your rights as a parent under New York state law if you are going through a divorce and have to navigate child custody. According to the Legal Assistance of Western New York, there are two main types of custody: sole and joint.

Sole custody means that one of the parents is making all of the authoritative decisions regarding the child’s well-being. The non-custodial parent is usually informed about anything going on with the child medically or legally, but will not make any decisions. On the other hand, joint custody means that both parents (and sometimes others) will share decision-making.

If you and your ex-spouse are on cordial terms, joint custody is the more popular route. Keep in mind that custody in the state of New York refers primarily to decision-making. Where the child lives is of a separate matter, and is most commonly referred to as “physical custody” or, possibly, “primary placement.”

In New York either the mother or the legal father can request custody of a child. Neither parent is inherently favored by the courts. It is also possible for relatives or friends to request custody of a child, but they would need to prove “extraordinary circumstances” in order to do so.

Depending on the relationship between you and your ex-spouse, you can either have the courts decide on a visitation schedule or you can agree to keep the visitation flexible. Again, if your divorce is amicable, it is generally in everybody’s best interest to operate outside of the courts as much as possible.