Background: present-day New York City. Parents are mid-late twenties, unmarried, with a three-year-old daughter. Father’s name is on the birth certificate. They stayed together for the first 2½ years and have now split up. Child was originally staying with mother but has been staying with father for the past month, mother now suing for sole custody.
I need a detailed, step-by-step explanation of what would happen during a custody case, from filing for custody through the decision being made. How long would the whole process take? How long between the different parts? Who would the child stay with during this time, and when/how would that be evaluated? How would the judge make their final decision? How exactly does the process of presenting witnesses work? Is it like a criminal trial, where one lawyer interviews the witness and the other can object and cross-examine? Are there opening and closing statements?
More specifically to my storyline, how much would the skill of the lawyer (say, a good but not outstanding law firm/lawyer vs one of the best in the business) affect the outcome?
When would the home study happen? How much would the price/appearance of the home (average vs very expensive) matter? If the mother is living with her parents, would this count against her because she can’t afford her own home, or for her because her can easily get babysitters (assuming the father lives alone in his own place)?
Would there be an investigation into the parents' finances? When? If the father lied on his job application and said he had qualifications he didn’t have and needed for the job, would the investigation turn this up? Is it realistic for it not to? Would they find out if he had another dependant (an elderly relative) and would this count against him to have to provide for both them and the child? How much would the income of the parents affect the final decision?
If the mother had a history of drug use, when would this be brought up? Is it realistic for the father to make the accusation, or would an investigation find it? If a witness to the drug use didn’t want to testify, could they be subpoenaed? How badly would it count against the mother if the drugs had interfered with her ability to care for the child? How much would it help her if she'd recently been to rehab?
Finally, is it realistic for the father to be awarded sole custody?
Thanks in advance!