Child custody is one of the most important and sensitive aspects of the divorce process. Child custody may be determined affably between two parents with a judge’s approval or may be decided by a family judge in the event of a dispute. Though child custody statutes vary between states, the best interest of the child will always be the primary consideration of the judge.
Child custody is considered a series of rights and responsibilities that govern a parent’s caretaking relationship with their child. Child custody may include legal custody matters and physical custody matters. Physical child custody establishes the actual physical right to be with the child and determines where the child resides. Legal child custody includes authority over more diverse issues such as healthcare, religion, education, and other matters involving the welfare of the child.
A family judge may award child custody in a number of different ways. Child custody can be awarded to one or both biological parents, stepparents, grandparents or other legal guardians, dependent on the interests of the child.
Joint child custody
Joint child custody is characterized by shared responsibility for the child between both parents. Joint child custody may be acquired over both physical and legal matters.
Sole child custody
Sole child custody may be awarded in the event that a judge finds one parent unsuited to act as a primary caregiver for their child. Sole child custody may also apply to either legal or physical involvement.
In most instances where there is no evidence of child abuse, neglect, or other serious problems, parents are free to handle child custody matters using their own discretion, with the final approval of a judge.
Each child custody case is decided on a number of relevant factors pertaining to the child’s welfare. Many states favor joint custody based on the belief that a child will benefit most from regular contact with both parental figures. However, interfering with the other parent’s relationship with the child or other undermining actions may affect a judge’s inclination to award joint custody.
Other relevant factors that may be considered when awarding child custody include:
- The child’s preference
- Parents’ efforts toward maintaining a strong, healthy relationship with the child
- Mental and physical well-being of both the parents and the child
- The child’s adjustment to the current community and school
- Parent’s requests
- Time available to spend with the child
- Financial means
- Household stability
- The current primary caregiver
- Evidence of neglect or abuse
- Relationship between the child, parents, and siblings
- Parent’s willingness to comply with the legal process
Judges have historically favored mothers when delegating primary child custody responsibility, however, with the increasing diversity of the modern American family, more fathers are regularly gaining joint and sole custody rights when appropriate.
A divorce attorney can be an instrumental player in your efforts to obtain child custody. A divorce attorney can familiarize you with child custody laws and statutes in your state so that you may make every effort to protect the best interest of your children.
Please contact us today to speak with a qualified divorce attorney regarding your child custody matters.