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How is Child Custody Handled in Uncontested Divorce?

Sad African American girl hug dad leaving home with suitcase

As we’ve previously discussed, uncontested divorces can offer many benefits for parties looking to avoid the cost, complications, and hassles of a drawn-out divorce in court. When done properly, an uncontested divorce can be significantly cheaper and faster than a contested divorce, and parties may be able to entirely avoid appearing in court at any point. Certain circumstances can make an uncontested divorce more complicated, however. What happens when there are shared, minor children involved? Is an uncontested divorce still possible? Continue reading to learn about how child custody is handled in an uncontested divorce. If you are considering divorce in The Bronx, call a dedicated New York child custody and divorce lawyer at the Kohn Law Firm for help.

Uncontested Divorce is Possible With Children

In New York, parties can pursue the streamlined uncontested divorce procedure even if they have minor children, provided they satisfy all other requirements for obtaining an uncontested divorce. That means the parties must agree on the reason for divorce, they must satisfy the residency requirements, and they must agree on all relevant divorce issues.

If You Have Kids, You Can’t Rely on New York’s “DIY” Uncontested Divorce Program

New York offers an especially streamlined version of uncontested divorce known as the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Uncontested Divorce Program for certain divorces. The program is meant for couples who have been married for a short period of time, have limited marital assets and debts to divide, and who have no minor children. Couples who share any minor children under the age of 21 are not eligible for the DIY program. That means you will need to file all appropriate paperwork and generate an appropriate divorce settlement agreement, for which you should likely retain the services of a qualified divorce and child custody attorney.

“Uncontested” Means the Parties Agree on Every Matter

Uncontested divorces involving children are like any other uncontested divorce: They only work if the divorce is actually “uncontested.” The parties must agree on every issue about the divorce before filing, including property division, alimony, child support, and child custody.

Concerning children, the parents must be ready to file for divorce with an agreement that addresses all issues, including:

  • Physical custody (where the child will reside)
  • Legal custody (which parent or parents have the right to make important decisions concerning the child’s upbringing)
  • Visitation rights
  • A shared custody schedule
  • Child support payments

If the parties have not reached an agreement on a physical custody arrangement, on whether one or both parents will make decisions concerning education, religion, medical issues, and other matters, as well as regarding child support, then the parties cannot enter into an uncontested divorce proceeding.

When you file for an uncontested divorce, you will include a divorce settlement agreement addressing all divorce-related matters. In addition to property division and alimony, the agreement should incorporate decisions regarding child custody, visitation, and child support. Parties with minor children must complete and file additional paperwork concerning child custody and child support.

Courts Pay Closer Attention to Uncontested Divorce Paperwork When Kids Are Involved

New York law sets minimum requirements for child support and has child support guidelines depending on the circumstances of the family (although parties can opt-out of the guidelines by filing an appropriate stipulation concerning child support). Parents are also afforded certain rights with regard to child custody. If you are filing for an uncontested divorce and minor children are involved, you can expect the court to review your paperwork and proposed agreement a bit more closely to ensure that you are satisfying your legal requirements and protecting the best interests of your children.

Typically, an uncontested divorce does not require the parties to attend any hearings. If the parties have children, however, the court is more likely to have at least one hearing that requires the parties’ attendance. The hearing should still be relatively short and simple compared to other court proceedings, typically around 15 minutes. Unless the court identifies some error or problem (such as inadequate child support), the court will simply make sure that the parties understand all of their rights and responsibilities concerning child custody, visitation, and support that will be ordered as part of the divorce. If the court finds any problem with the parties’ proposal, the issue will be brought up at the hearing.

Trusted Help for Your New York Uncontested Divorce

If you are considering divorce in New York, or if you are dealing with New York family law issues including child custody, property division, or support, reach out to the experienced and compassionate New York divorce lawyers at the Bronx offices of the Kohn Law Firm for a free consultation, at 718-409-1200.

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