Does NY Approve Split Custody Agreements?

When a divorced couple has children, they most often have either joint custody or sole custody agreement. The custody arrangement generally affects all children of the marriage equally. While less common, there are circumstances where siblings may be separated and have specific and individual custody provisions. This is called split custody.

What Is Split Custody?

In split custody, the children are separated, with some children living with each parent. This arrangement generally allows the noncustodial parent of the child to have visitation.

Split custody is uncommon but can be in the best interests of the children in some situations:

  • Siblings do not get along.
  • Extracurricular and other activities are closer to where one parent lives.
  • The work schedules of the parents work best with the needs of specific children.
  • The child’s relationship may be stronger with one parent.

Here’s a practical example. One parent is an emergency room physician who works overnight at the hospital. Their work schedule does not support the needs of their 3-year-old child, so that child lives with their other parent who works a more traditional schedule. But that same work schedule may work well for their 16-year-old that needs to be taken to track practice every day at 4 p.m. The older child lives with the physician.

In this scenario, one parent has sole physical custody over one child.

Do Parents Lose Decision-Making Rights in Split Custody?

Parents do not necessarily lose decision-making rights unless that is specified in the custody agreement. Not having physical custody does not preclude a parent from having joint legal custody. Both parents will have an equal say in major life decisions affecting their children.

These major decisions include the following:

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Dental Care
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Religious Practices

Split custody agreements still require both parents to act as a parenting team for all their children.

What Are the Other Types of Custody in New York?

There are two categories of custody in the state: legal custody and physical custody. Within those two categories are joint custody and sole custody. The type of custody awarded is not about parental convenience, but rather the best interests of the child.

An outline of the types of custody are as follows:

  • Legal Custody. Legal custody gives a parent the right to make major decisions for the child. In joint legal custody, the parents will work together to make decisions for their child. In sole legal custody, only one parent has the authority to make these important decisions (though the other parent may also have physical custody).
  • Physical Custody. Physical custody is known also as residential custody. The parent with physical custody of a child provides the physical care (food, shelter, etc.) and supervision of the child. In joint physical custody, the child has two residences, dividing their time between the parents. In sole physical custody, the child lives with only one parent (though the other parent often has visitation rights to maintain a relationship with the child).

There can be any combination of legal, physical, joint, and sole custody, based on the child’s needs.

Can I Modify an Agreement to Include Split Custody?

What’s considered the best interests of the child can change over time. Like in our previous example, the needs of a 3-year-old are very different from a 16-year-old. A custody agreement that no longer works for the children and parents should be modified.

Child custody modification can begin as a discussion between parents. Parents who can work together may be able to reach a new agreement. In other situations, the decision is put into the hands of a judge. Any modification must be justifiable for a judge to give their approval.

At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, our attorneys fully comprehend the challenges in custody agreements. We have more than 75 years of collective experience helping parents overcome child custody obstacles.

Discuss your custody case with one of our attorneys in a consultation. Call (845) 605-4330 to schedule.

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