As fathers have become more involved than they tended to be in the past, many divorced or separated parents in New York have moved toward sharing joint custody of their children. However, while this move might be appropriate for some families, child custody agreements focus on what is in the best interests of a child and not what his or her parents' wishes are. Depending on each family's unique situation, it might be more appropriate for a child's primary caretaker to maintain primary custody.
Which parent exactly qualifies as a child's primary caretaker can be rather straightforward in some cases. Whichever parent is primarily responsible for planning and preparing meals, arranging health care for the child and who is generally active in the child's school and extracurricular life is generally considered to be the primary caretaker. Depending on the exact situation, a parent's volunteer record at the child's school might also be considered.
Not every family situation is this straight forward. In many families, parental duties are shared by both parents, and while one might primarily be responsible for cooking dinner, the other might ensure that homework and other necessary activities are attended to. When this occurs, it is necessary to look at factors outside of direct parental responsibilities, including the mental or physical health of the parents or any possible continued stability that could be provided by remaining with one or the other. Depending on the child's age, he or she might even be able to choose with whom they wish to live.
Even if a divorce has been otherwise smooth and seamless, addressing child custody can be an understandably difficult task. Most parents truly do want what is best for their child, but personal feelings can unfortunately interfere. For New York parents who are unable to come to an agreement in mediation as to who the primary caretaker is, a family law judge can review all relevant information before issuing a final, binding decision that all parties must adhere to.
Source: FindLaw, "Preference for the "Primary Caretaker"", Accessed on Sept. 23, 2015