Child Custody Attorneys
Child custody is an emotional issue for most couples. In the best cases, parents come up with an agreement on their own that they are both happy with before the courts get involved. Divorcing couples will need to have their parenting agreement approved by the court. If they cannot agree, the court will make custody decisions for them based on what it believes is in the best interests of the child.
Best Interests of the Child
In every state, the primary consideration in determining matters of child custody is the “best interests” of the child. To begin with, you need to know that:
- Child custody is not a reward or punishment for feuding parents, no matter how terrible one parent has been as a spouse or partner. Any attempt to use your child against the other parent will only make the court question whether you have your child’s bests interests at heart.
- Custody is not awarded based on who has the most money.
- The mother is not automatically favored.
- Your idea of what constitutes the best interests of your child may be vastly different from the court’s opinion.
Each state has its own method for determining what is in the best interest of children, and many have set out specific factors in their statutes. Some of the most common include:
- The love, affection and emotional ties between the child and each parent and other household members
- The willingness of each parent to facilitate and encourage an ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent, unless that would be dangerous for the child
- The willingness and ability of each parent to provide a safe home and provide for the child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and medical care
- The willingness and ability of each parent to provide love, affection and guidance
Legal and Physical Custody
Complete sole custody is rarely awarded to a parent. The courts encourage an ongoing relationship between the child and both parents except in extreme cases where ongoing contact with a parent puts the child in danger. In joint custody, parents may share physical custody, legal custody, or both.
Physical custody is where the child resides. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions for the child, such as medical decisions and where they will go to school.
In shared custody physical custody is divided equally between the parents and they work together in parenting and making decisions. This arrangement can work well for couples who remain amicable and can cooperate well when it comes to their child. When it works, this is the most fluid and harmonious set up for the child and parents.
In joint physical custody, the child spends a large amount of time with each parent. In sole physical custody the child primarily lives with one parent and, in most cases, spends some time with the other parent according to a visitation agreement.
In joint legal custody, the parents make major decisions for the child together, such as those involving education, religion, and medical care. In sole legal custody one parent makes these decisions and is not required to consult with the other parent or consider their wishes.
A common scenario is for one parent to have sole physical custody, with a regular visitation schedule for the other parent, and both parents to share joint legal custody. This is often the most practical arrangement, when parents do not live very close to each other, balancing stability for the child with as much involvement as possible from the noncustodial parent.
To learn more about child custody in your state, and your legal rights, please search this directory for an experienced child custody attorney in your area.