Child custody is the term used to describe how divorced parents divide up the time they spend with their children. Depending on the relationship between the former spouses, child custody can be a devastating issue that parents have to deal with until their children turn eighteen years old. Child custody not only decides a visitation schedule but also the specific holidays that children will spend with their parents. Courts in the United States always have the interests of the child in mind when making custody recommendations. Historically, there was a preference for children to have more time with their mother. Today, courts are shifting this standard and are starting to consider the rights of the father carefully.
Physical custody means that a parent can have their child with them. This arrangement usually works when parents live very close to one another. Some states will award joint physical custody when it is geographically realistic, and the children are going to spend a lot of time with both parents.
Legal custody means when a parent has the right and obligation to make decisions about a child's upbringing. The decisions that are included are the child's religion, medical care, or where the child will go to school. If either former spouse does not include the other in legal decision making, it is possible to go to court and have those decisions reversed. These proceedings can be costly, cause tension between the former spouses, and be harmful to the children.
Many parents who do not live together have joint custody where they share the decision-making responsibilities or physical custody of their children. A judge decides joint custody if the former spouses do not agree. Depending on each former spouse's obligations, a court will try to find the best possible solution that is in the best interests of the children.
Sole custody exists when one parent has their children most of the time when the other parent is deemed unfit. Sole custody decisions are not something that courts take lightly, and usually, there have to be very severe issues in order to recommend a sole custody arrangement. If one parent has been sexually abusive or has substance abuse issues that can be clearly demonstrated to a judge, sole custody is typically granted to the other parent. In instances where both parents are deemed unfit, the children will go to other family members or be sent to foster care.
Where custody arrangements get more complicated is when one parent receives an employment opportunity in a different state, country, or merely wants to relocate closer to their family members. In America, there has to be compelling evidence for a judge to allow children to move away from one of their parents that is willing to spend time with them regularly. These custody battles can get very expensive, and it is wise for former spouses to consider carefully before fighting a custody battle of this nature to avoid wasting money and also uprooting their children's lives.
Depending on the state, children do have the potential to make a statement about where they want to live. Usually, at age fourteen, children can ask the court for a specific living arrangement. In more aggressive custody battles, either parent may try to fight the child's wishes. However, the court will hear the testimony of additional family members to try to ascertain the best possible solution for the child's upbringing.
Child custody is one of the most controversial issues when going through a divorce. There are several different types of custody that courts help former spouses decide to finalize their divorces when there are children involved. Joint custody is the most common arrangement where it is possible for children to divide up a certain percentage of their time with each parent depending on each parent's obligations. Former spouses should consider carefully before having an expensive custody battle and try to agree independently on their schedule to save money in the long-term and provide a healthy environment for their children.