Each state has their own set of rules when it comes to child custody and divorce. New York is no different, and the court system can be difficult to navigate. Here are some little known aspects of family law in New York to assist those going through a child custody case.

The case can only be held in a New York court if the child is a resident of the state. The child must have resided in the state for at least six months. Infants six months of age and younger must have been born in the state for the case to be heard.

Parents start out with equal rights and responsibilities to the child. Unless one parent is proven to be unfit, both parents have equal rights to have access to the child. This may either be in the form of physical custody or visitation.

Courts always uphold what’s in the “best interests of the child.” If a child is at risk of physical or emotional harm from either parent, their access to the child may be restricted.

Both parents have the right to file for custody. Unless one parent has been the primary caregiver or a parent is proven to be unfit, both parents have the ability to file for either primary or joint physical custody.

Paternity must be established in order for a father to file for custody or visitation. Unless the parties were married or there has been an “Acknowledgement of Paternity” form signed, a father must prove paternity in order to file for any sort of rights to the child.

Depending on their age, a child may have a say in who they live with. Courts may take into consideration a child’s wishes as to who they live with. Generally, the older a child is, the more say they have.

Courts prefer parties to attend mediation. Before a case goes to trial, the courts prefer that parties pursue mediation to work through any child custody issues. This saves both the court and the parties involved time and money.

Custody orders are enforceable. If one parent refuses to cooperate with the custody agreement, they could be charged with a crime.