Child custody is not a one-size-fits-all situation for many families. There are four types of custody claims that can be filed, and two to three of the options will overlap. Family law firms and child custody lawyers are able to either help you mediate child custody agreements with your child’s other parent or make the best decision for your child on your terms.
Legal custody of a child means that each parent has the right and obligation to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. Schooling, religious upbringing, medical care, and after-school activities, for example, are some of the things that parents must negotiate, come to consensus about and be responsible for, regardless of who the child lives with.
Either parent may make parenting decisions without consulting the other, but it is best to discuss in order to avoid further conflict. If you exclude the child’s other parent from the decision-making process, they are able to take you to court and demand that the judge enforce the custody agreement.
In this case, this means that the parent has a right to have a child live with him or her. This can be awarded to one or both parents. If one parent has sole physical custody, then they are referred to as the “custodial” parent, by the other parent may still have the rights to visitation or parenting with the child.
If both parents have been awarded physical custody, but do not live with each other, then they have joint custody.
Joint custody is a combination of both legal and physical custody. These parents share decision-making powers and must arrange a schedule for the child, or the court will decide one on their behalf.
This schedule is based on housing arrangements and parental schedules, as well as the needs of the child. The time frames in which a parent has physical custody of the child can be flexible. If the parents live close to each other, it’s easier to better distribute time evenly between two parents, but if the parents live further away from each other, it makes things more difficult to arrange. One parent may have the child on weekdays, while the other gets weekends and holidays, or they may choose to alternate with the school year. The child may attend school in one place while living with one parent, then spend summers with the other parent.
Joint custody agreements allow both parents to continue contact with the child, and also alleviates the burdens of single parenthood. When filing for joint custody, however, it’s important to keep the child’s best interest in mind. Shuttling the child around and maintaining two homes, as well as communicating constantly regarding school, medical, and other needs may become burdensome and expensive — and it can also have a negative impact on the child.
One parent may be awarded physical and/or legal custody of the child. In cases where one parent has been deemed unfit to parent the child due to drug or alcohol dependence, child abuse or neglect, or other reasons that may endanger the child, then a court will likely not hesitate to award sole custody to the more responsible parent.
Non-custodial parents will still likely need to pay child support. In 2011, $500 per month was the average amount of child support deemed necessary by the courts.
Child custody lawyers may be able to offer legal advice or family law mediation tips in order to make the most rational and beneficial decision for your child’s sake. The child custody lawyers at RandS Law Group can offer family law advice to make child custody more reasonable and fair.