Joint/Shared Custody

Though not legislative, at least one appellate Court has issued a decision after trial granting parents joint custody with a shared parenting schedule. A decision issued by the Appellate Division, 3rd Department on November 20, 2014, after fact finding hearing, was for joint legal custody, equal half-week parenting time. Matter of Teri v. Elliot. 2014 NY Slip Op 08074.

This has not been the norm. In the past judges have warned parents after trial the Court will not issue a joint custody order since it is clear that they cannot co-parent. However, in the case Teri v. Elliot, the Court found that while both parents had shortcomings, each “demonstrated their ability to parent the child appropriately, and exhibited their strong desire to care for him.” Specifically in that case, both parents were found to be fit and able to provide a stable, nurturing environment for the child. Although the mother was the primary care giver during the child’s infancy, once the father became aware he was the father, he exercised his parenting time, and participated in programs to improve himself. The Court made note that both parents were supported emotionally and financially by their extended families.

Perhaps this case will set a precedent that local judges will follow, i.e. all things being relatively equal, a Court can issue joint custody, shared parenting even after a trial.