How a Child’s Age Can Influence Custody Disputes

In the past, many jurisdictions in the United States relied upon the tender years doctrine in child custody cases. This doctrine essentially created a presumption in favor of the mother in custody disputes involving children under a certain age.

Most states, including New York, have departed from this doctrine as an officially recognized principle of law. Nevertheless, as a practical matter, it is very common for family courts in New York to hold an unspoken and unofficial preference for the mother in custody cases involving young children.

As a general rule, the younger the child is, the stronger the preference for granting custody to the mother. For fathers seeking joint or sole custody of a young child, this can be a difficult hurdle. Because this preference is not an official point of law, it is difficult to attack directly. There is no roadmap delineating how a father can overcome the presumption in favor of the mother. The best option for a custody-seeking father is to retain an experienced lawyer to see to it that his interests are fully represented.

Our knowledgeable family law attorneys can help facilitate negotiation and settlement prior to trial on custody matters—the stage at which an agreement granting joint custody is more likely. For cases where the other parent is unwilling to negotiate or where a client seeks sole custody, we use our extensive trial experience to zealously and effectively advocate on his or her behalf in the courtroom.

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