Divorce Child Custody
If you are in the process of ending your marriage and have children, custody issues may weigh heavily on your mind. The highest priority for most couples going through a divorce is protecting the best interests of their children. One of the matters that must be resolved during the divorce process is who will get custody of the children.
There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to your right as a parent to make decisions about your children’s needs, which may include health care, education and religion. Most states award joint legal custody, allowing both parents the legal right to make important decisions about their children, unless one parent is deemed unfit by the court.
Physical custody determines where the children will live following the divorce. In your divorce agreement, you will decide who will be the “custodial” parent and who will be the “noncustodial” parent. The custodial parent is the primary caretaker with whom the children live, while the noncustodial parent will retain visitation privileges with his or her children.
Joint physical custody may be an option for some parents. In a joint custody arrangement, the children will divide their time equally between parents. Typically, custody is only shared if both parents live in the same neighborhood or school district in order to avoid impacting the children’s routine.
Many parents are afraid of a full-blown custody battle that will impact their children’s lives. Please be assured that only a small percentage of child custody disputes end up at trial. Most child custody arrangements are settled on during mediation. Rather than allowing a judge to make important decisions regarding your children, mediation lets you and your spouse control the arrangement.
Because child custody laws vary from state to state, you may want to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer about your rights. Even if you are going through mediation to resolve your child custody agreement, your lawyer can offer advice and ensure that the final arrangement is fair to you and your children.
You should also keep in mind that custody arrangements are not set in stone. If your situation should change, an attorney can help you file a motion with the court to amend the current child custody order.