Understanding Child Custody

Divorce is an emotional and difficult process for all family members involved.  Determining custody of children can prove to be both difficult and confusing.  For the adults, understanding the different types of child custody is important, so let's clarify a few of the most common questions.

First, what does child custody mean?

There are essentially two forms of custody.  The parent with legal custody is responsible for making important decisions such as their child's welfare, education, and health.  The parent with physical custody is the one who actually has the child living with them.  Now, as part of legal and physical custody, there are an array of options, including sole, joint, alternating, serial and split custody.  Despite the vast number of custody options available, many times, parents are unable to decide on an arrangement that works for each party.  When this is the case and custody goes to court, a judge will make a ruling based upon the best interest of the child.  When considering a child's needs, there are a large number of factors that the judge will take into consideration.  The conduct and past history of each parent are carefully assessed in order to try to predict future conduct.  Factors including age, physical and mental well-being, the child's relationship with each parent, history of drug and alcohol abuse, past involvement of the parent in their child's life and time available to dedicate to the child.  Most rulings regarding child custody are made within approximately 30 to 45 days.

Due to the nature of child custody determination, obtaining reliable counsel is imperative.  Unlike criminal cases, child custody cases are not heard by a jury.  Instead, a single judge is ultimately the sole individual who will determine a ruling.  Utilizing the expertise of an attorney gives individuals an advocate when dealing with both the court system and opposing counsel.  Also, child custody law varies from state to state.  Sound legal counsel will help you know what to expect within the courtroom walls, become better educated on custody law and navigate an array of other unclear waters.  Additionally, attorneys will help you determine what documents should be brought to court in order to demonstrate that you fir the better parent standard.  Such documents could include detailed phone logs, visitation schedules and proof of child support payments.  Lastly, legal advice will help you better understand courtroom etiquette, which may help decrease your risk of losing child custody.  

For more information, contact a local divorce lawyer