Over the years, I have found that clients have many misconceptions about child custody, as well as misconceptions about their rights and obligations under child custody order after the divorce. It’s important to understand child custody laws and how they apply to your family after a divorce.
Every custody case is unique because every family is unique. Let’s face it, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to tackling family law issues. So when you and your family find yourself facing new challenges, you need someone who will listen and take the time to understand your family. This is where I come in.
- A custody case may be part of a divorce case.
- A custody case may involve unmarried partners who have children.
- A custody case may involve children of parents who had a relationship at some point, but the relationship ended.
- A custody case may involve parents who had children together but did not have a relationship.
- A custody case may result from a dispute between parents and grandparents over grandparent visitation.
I can work with you to develop solutions to the family relationship issues, which you have identified and perhaps help you anticipate obstacles you haven’t had the time to consider. Here are some things you should know about custody.
What happens when parents can't agree on custody?
When parents cannot agree on sharing time with or making or making decision for their children, then a custody case becomes “contested.” Facing a contested child custody case is often one of the most challenging experiences a family may ever face.
A child custody case can be contested for one of two reasons.
- The parents cannot agree on whether they should continue to jointly make major decisions for their children on issues such as religion, education, and nonemergency medical care. This is known as joint legal custody.
- Second, the parents cannot agree on how the children will divide their time between their parents. This part of a custody case is called “physical custody.”
Sometimes parents will fight over shared physical custody for reasons, which have nothing to do with children. For example, one parent may seek primary physical custody to maximize the amount of child support that parent receives. A more subtle example is when a parent seeks primary physical custody of the children to “punish” the other parent for ending the marriage or relationship if the parties are not married.
If parents can’t agree on physical or legal custody, then the judge will make the decision for them.
If the parents agree on physical and legal custody, then it becomes a judge’s job to make the decision for the parents based on all of the evidence the parties give to the court. When it comes to making a decision on legal and physical custody, the judge does not consider what the parents want. The judge considers the best interests of the children.
What does "best interests of the children" mean?
To decide what physical and legal custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children, the court looks at:
- The physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the children, and the ability of each parent to meet these needs;
- The preference of each child if the court decides the child is mature enough to have a preference and if the court decides to take into account the preference;
- The love and affection existing between each child and each parent;
- The length of time the children have lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- The willingness and ability of each parent to foster a close relationship between the other parent and each of the children unless the evidence shows that the health and safety of the children and a parent will be endangered if the court allows a continuing relationship with the other parent because the other parent has been violent towards one or more members of the family.
- Any other factors, which the judge believes to be relevant.
The good news is that most custody cases settle without the parties turning control of their lives over to a judge. Even if a custody case can’t be settled, most of the time, a judge is able to decide legal and physical custody disputes using the standard best interest factors.
Because most custody cases are resolved via settlement, it's important that you have an attorney on your side than can help you negotiate a settlement that works for you and your children. If you have questions about the process, please, give me a call today and we can discuss your options.more child custody posts >