Divorce And Child Custody Arrangements
When parents separate or divorce, coming to an agreement on a child custody arrangement can be a difficult and contentious process. At Rita Holder Law, we always recommend mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as the first option. If ADR does not work out, we will fight aggressively for your rights as a parent and the best interests of your children.
Our legal team has more than 25 years of experience mediating child custody disputes. We have a deep understanding of state and local laws and can anticipate problems that may crop up in your situation.
Determining Legal Custody And Physical Custody
Child custody arrangements fall into two categories; legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make important life decisions for the child concerning things such as religion, health, education and psychological well-being. Unless one of the parents has a history of things such as violence, substance abuse or mental health issues, the court typically grants joint legal custody. Sole legal custody is not uncommon, but the goal of the court is to try to make sure that both parents are involved in their children’s lives.
Like legal custody, the default position of the court is to grant joint physical custody unless one parent is considered unsuited to care for children. This does not necessarily mean that time is split 50-50 between the two parents. A parent who has custody more than half the time has primary custody. In legal terms, the non-primary parent has visitation with the children. Grandparents and other family members can also petition the court for visitation rights. The physical custody arrangement has a big impact on child support deliberations.
Child Custody And The Best Interests Of The Child
The most important factor influencing the court’s decision on child custody arrangements is what is in the best interest of the child. When divorces become contentious and parents are unable to agree on an arrangement, the court takes several things into consideration in determining what is best for the child.
- Living conditions of each parent’s home
- Wishes of the child (if mature and over 12 years old)
- Criminal backgrounds of each parent and anyone they are cohabitating with
- Any disabilities that prevent a parent from providing adequate care
- History of substance abuse by either parent
- History of violence, neglect or child abuse
The court may also consider other factors that are relevant to your specific situation. The goal in custody hearings is to protect the health and welfare of the children while coming to an arrangement that is as fair as possible to both parents.