Divorce is a difficult time for the entire family, but children are caught up in the proceedings and their custody will be a part of the decision as long as they are under the age of 18. It is important to get help from a child custody and divorce attorney and any support system available while you go through your divorce so you do not have to go through it alone.
Child custody proceedings can be very complex and hard to understand at first, so let’s break down what you can expect when you start your custody process.
1. Types of Custody Arrangements
This is the umbrella that sole and joint physical custody sits under. It refers to which parent the child lives with. If the child lives with both parents, then it’s joint physical custody. If the child lives with one parent full-time, then they have sole custody. Both will be described below.
Joint Physical Custody:
This is the custody arrangement courts prefer to grant, so the children can keep in contact with both parents and it helps make the divorce less stressful for them. In some states, this is the default custody agreement given, which means if a parent doesn’t agree, it’s on them to prove why they should have more custody than the other parent. This arrangement doesn’t have to be 50/50, it just means the parents need to come up with a schedule that works for both of them to share custody. If they can’t, the court will make a schedule for them, such as alternating days/weeks/months.
Studies show that children fare better with joint custody than sole custody, so if this is at all a possibility for the family, it is recommended to try and make this arrangement work for the sake of the children.
Sole Physical Custody:
With sole physical custody, one parent (custodial parent) has the child permanently and the other parent (noncustodial parent) has scheduled visitations. The benefit of sole physical custody is that the child stays in one location and doesn’t have to move around constantly, which reduces stress and further arguments of schooling etc. The disadvantage is that the noncustodial parent gets less time with the child and it could make the child feel alienated from that parent. Visitations could seem forced and if not properly managed, the child could think of it as a chore instead of quality time with a parent.
If this arrangement is made, make sure you speak with your child about the ins and outs of their citation, putting particular emphasis on the noncustodial parent’s desire to spend time with them so the child knows it’s not their fault or personal in any way. Even though you know the details, your child is likely feeling a lot of emotions and needs you to be very understanding and communicative about the process.
This can be joint or sole, just like physical custody. Legal custody pertains to the right to make decisions about the child’s education, medical care, etc. Most states award joint legal custody, but this can be given solely to the custodial parent as well if the case is made for it during the divorce.
Guardianship/Non-Parent Legal Custody:
In some cases, relatives or family friends may try to get custody of the child. The court calls this guardianship and the process is begun by petitioning the court, paying fees and getting a letter of concern from the parents. The court will do a background check on the person seeking guardianship and may arrange interviews and home inspections before the judge makes their final decision to determine what’s best for the child.
2. Steps to a custody arrangement
Regardless of what your final plans are for custody arrangements, make sure to always get legal advice first. There are a few ways you can come to a custody arrangement.
Reaching a custody agreement in private, with or without attorneys is the preferred way to come to an arrangement as it is less stressful and faster. Parents can come to the agreement themselves then get their attorneys to finalize the arrangements.
This is a structured process where both parents hire a third party to help them settle any disagreements or disputes between them. While mediations can become combative, they are less intense than a court setting and can bring the parents to work together. The mediator will go over all issues, make an agenda, and then make a written agreement that will be finalized in court.
Sometimes emotions are raw and your situation may be too complicated to settle outside of court. Family court helps make the decisions about custody and visitation by considering what is in the best interest of the child. This is the standard for all courts in the US, though the details of that can depend on jurisdiction.
Remember, no matter what happens after court, your family will go on and you will have to maintain a stable relationship with your co-parent for the sake of your child. Though divorce isn’t as taboo as it once was, make sure to take the time to talk to your child gently about what is going on, without giving too many details that may make them upset. Make sure to take their feelings into consideration and ask them their thoughts and opinions to make them feel less alienated by the whole divorce process.
Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones With a Family Law Attorney
There’s no understating the importance of knowing what you’re talking about when you’re warring on the legal battleground. Whether you’re talking about terminating parental rights or divorce — it is vital to enter that fight well informed.
The legal needs and situations of each person are unique. So don’t miss out on a chance to learn what you can do to arm yourself for the particulars of your battle. The legal world can be daunting, so make sure you have professional help by your side when you need it.
Attorney Hunter Fowler makes the needs of you and your family his top priority and does the work to understand your unique situation and craft strong legal solutions. Contact experienced divorce attorney Hunter Fowler for compassionate, confident representation. He will work closely with you to help you prepare for child custody hearings and fight for the justice you deserve.