New York family courts and fathers: can you get 50/50 custody?

Here’s what you should know if you’re a father in New York state seeking 50/50 custody with your ex.

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What's Inside

What's Inside

Key takeaways

  • 50/50 custody is a joint custody arrangement where the parents share equal (50/50) parenting time with their child.
  • A New York court will award joint 50/50 custody if it determines that doing so is in the best interest of the child.
  • There is no presumption of 50/50 custody in New York. Instead, courts decide whether to award 50/50 custody on a case-by-case basis.

What are the chances of a father getting 50/50 custody in New York?

A 50/50 custody arrangement calls for the parents to equally divide parenting time. Like any child custody schedule, this arrangement has pros and cons.

Whether you’re a father seeking a 50/50 custody schedule or a mother worried that your child’s father wants 50/50 custody to avoid child support payments, you may wonder about the chances of a father getting 50/50 custody in New York.

There’s no definitive answer, as the odds vary depending on the unique circumstances of each custody case. That said, this article will shed some light on the chances of a father getting 50/50 custody in New York, how New York courts determine custody and the types of custody arrangements in New York.

What are the chances of a father getting 50/50 custody in New York?

In New York, custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child, without regard to either parent’s gender. Thus, there’s no predetermined likelihood or guarantee of a father obtaining 50/50 custody. 

However, the results of one 2018 study concluded that, more often than not, fathers are awarded less than 50 percent custody. Instead, they receive approximately 30 percent of child custody time.

How is custody determined in New York?

New York courts consider several factors when deciding child custody matters. In every case, the biggest factor is the best interest of the child. Therefore, courts frequently consider factors such as: 

  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The physical and emotional well-being of each parent
  • Past involvement of each parent in the child’s life
  • The ability of each parent to provide a safe and stable environment for the child
  • The child’s physical, educational and social needs
  • Whether there is any history of domestic violence or substance abuse on the part of either parent
  • The work schedules and childcare arrangements available to each parent
  • The preferences of the child, depending on their age and maturity level

Pro tip: A father is more likely to get 50/50 custody if he can prove that such an arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Often fathers compile and present evidence to support their case, such as: 

  • Witness statements or affidavits from individuals who may attest to the positive relationship between the father and their child
  • Financial statements that confirm the father’s ability to adequately provide for their child
  • Reports from mental health professionals, child psychologists or other experts who may recommend and testify to the benefits of 50/50 custody

Reasons why a court may not award 50/50 custody

There are several reasons why a court may decide not to award a 50/50 custody arrangement in New York. Some common examples include: 

  • The distance between the parents’ households would make awarding 50/50 custody impractical or disruptive to the child’s routine. 
  • There’s a history of high conflict or animosity between the parents that could negatively impact the child’s well-being.
  • One parent’s work or travel requirements would make it difficult to provide consistent and equal care for the child.
  • A parent is deemed unfit or unable to provide a safe environment for the child.

Is joint custody 50/50?

Joint custody doesn’t necessarily mean 50/50 custody. 

While joint custody involves both parents sharing in the day-to-day care (physical custody) or decision-making authority (legal custody) for the child, this doesn’t always mean that both parents share these rights equally. 

For example, a common physical custody arrangement is one in which a child spends every weekday residing with one parent and alternates weekends and major holidays between the two parents. In this scenario, both parents share physical custody of their child, but such custody isn’t 50/50.

Custody presumptions in New York

Unlike in some states, in New York there’s no presumption that an award of joint custody between both parents is in the best interests of the child. 

Due to outdated gender norms, fathers in New York have historically been more likely to be awarded less than 50 percent custody. Nevertheless, although 50/50 custody is still not the norm, there’s some evidence that it’s gradually becoming more common. 
Pro tip: If you would prefer primary or sole custody of your child, you can attempt to prevent your child’s other parent from obtaining joint custody. To do so, you must prove to the court that joint custody wouldn’t be in the child’s best interest.

Other custody arrangements in New York

There are two types of custody in New York: legal and physical. 

Physical custody refers to the physical care and supervision of a child and frequently refers to where the child resides. A parent with physical custody of their child is typically responsible for providing day-to-day care. 

By contrast, legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. The decision-making authority over the child includes: 

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Religious upbringing
  • General well-being

Sole vs. joint custody

A child’s physical and legal custody can be further broken down into sole or joint custody. 

In a sole custody arrangement, only one parent has custody of the child. Conversely, in a joint custody arrangement, both parents share custody of the child. 

Below are the possible custody arrangements in New York: 

Custody typeDescription
Sole physical custodyOne parent (the custodial parent) is primarily responsible for the child’s day-to-day care and residence.
Joint physical custodyBoth parents share frequent and ongoing contact with and day-to-day care for the child. 
Sole legal custodyOne parent has authority to make important decisions about the child’s health, education, religious upbringing and other significant aspects of their life.
Joint legal custodyBoth parents share decision-making authority regarding the child’s upbringing and well-being.

How a lawyer may help

Child custody matters may be difficult to navigate at times. Nevertheless, you have a legal right to parent and care for your child. If you have questions, you may want to consider speaking with an experienced family law and custody attorney to discuss how to protect your interests.

An attorney can help you:

  • Assess whether and to what extent you may have a legal basis to pursue 50/50 custody of your child
  • Prepare arguments as to why 50/50 custody is or isn’t in the best interests of your child 
  • Advocate on your behalf in court to fight for your custody rights


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Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

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