Divorce Law and Child Custody

Monday, July 23, 2012
One of the biggest concerns many couples have when they get a divorce is who will have custody of the children. Some couples can work out an amicable agreement for child custody on their own. These people may not need to contact a family law specialist; if the court thinks their agreement is fair, they can get their divorce without a lawyer. In many other families, however, the situation has gotten so bad that neither party can think clearly when the other person is involved. If you have this kind of problem, it might be time to learn more about divorce law and how it applies to child custody cases.Definition of CustodyLegally, custody refers to your ability to make decisions about how your children will be cared for, as well as their education, religious training and health care.

Usually, one parent receives custody and is considered the custodial parent. This person is responsible for most of the decisions and carries most of the financial burden of child care. While it is not legal for the court to favor one type of custody or to choose the custodial parent based on gender, this does happen in some cases.Types of CustodyThere are several different types of legal custody agreement. Sole custody is common in situations where one parent has considerably reduced financial resources or where the court decides that one parent is not capable of being responsible for the child or children. Joint custody occurs when both parents are considered to be capable and responsible. Both types of custody can be divided into physical custody and legal custody.The first refers to the child's presence in the parent's home. The second refers to the parent's ability to make decisions about the child's welfare. It is possible for a court to order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical custody. In these cases, the child may not live with you, but you still have a say in his or her upbringing.Definition of Parenting TimeParenting time, also known as visitation, contact or access, is not the same as custody, though many people mistake the two. The non-custodial parent is usually afforded a certain amount of time in the custody agreement. This produces the very common situation in which a child lives with one parent part of the time, such as during the week, and the other parent for the remainder. This situation can be confusing or upsetting for children, so it's important to think about it carefully.How Courts Decide CustodyThere are a number of factors that go into a court's custody order, but they all revolve around what is considered in the child's best interest.

A court should consider the wishes of both the parents and the child, but it will also look at the way in which the family interacts, the health of all the people involved, and situations such as school, friends and community. The court will also consider which parent has historically been the primary caregiver as well as the risk of one parent refusing to allow appropriate parenting time to the other.