Child Custody Lawyers
After divorce, child custody is perhaps the most contentious area of family law. Most parents want custody of and access to their children, and are willing to do just about anything to get it. Understanding the different facets of child custody is the first step to earning a favorable custody arrangement.
Types of Custody Arrangements
Custody plans are often as unique as the families asking for it. Your final custody arrangement will depend on your specific family and its circumstances. Generally, though, there are two main types of custody:
- Physical custody: Typically revolves around who the child or children will spend their time with. This often means where the children come to after school or where they sleep.
- Legal custody: This has a lot to do with the decision-making between the parents. Legal custody affords you the ability to make choices about your child’s medical care and education, for example.
For each type of custody, the court can either decide that it goes to one parent or it remains shared. Sometimes, one parent gets sole physical custody, and the other gets scheduled visitation with the children. Other times, the court settles for joint custody, which would mean the children share significant amounts of time with both parents. That often means half the week with one parent and half the week with the other, or a week at one place and a week at the other place. However, joint custody only works if parents live relatively close to each other, as it reduces the stress on the children and allows them to maintain a somewhat normal routine.
Who Determines Custody?
Like most family law issues, parties in a custody tussle are often in control of their own fate. Most family courts in the country prefer that separating or divorcing parents reach an amicable agreement on their own or with the help of a mediator or arbitrator. Doing so often saves both parents a good deal of time and money that would have otherwise been spent in court, and it typically leaves both parties feeling satisfied with the final arrangement.
However, not all custody negotiations end with a satisfactory arrangement. If the parents can’t decide on how best to allocate custody and visitation, a judge will. In most states, the judge awards custody to the parent who can meet the “best interests of the child.”
The Best Interests of the Child: Factors the Court May Consider When Deciding Custody
All states use a “best in interests of the child” standard in contentious custody cases. This standard determines everything from visitation rights to who is named as the child’s conservator to the child’s living arrangements.
The best interests of a child vary from one case to the next but generally depend on these factors:
- The level of involvement each parent has had in the child’s upbringing
- The emotional bond that the children have with each of their parents, as well as any siblings outside of this particular family unit
- The child’s age, sex, and physical and mental health
- The child’s established living pattern (home, school, community, and religious institution)
- Each parent’s physical and mental health
- Each parent’s willingness to support the other parent’s relationship with the child
- Each parent’s ability to provide the child with guidance
- Each parent’s living situation and other social factors
- The child’s preference if the child is old enough—usually, older than 12—to express an opinion
- Evidence of past abuse or neglect
Depending on your family’s unique situation, the judge may consider other factors when deciding custody.
Modifying an Existing Child Custody Arrangement
Child custody arrangements are not set in stone. To modify a court-ordered agreement, you have two options:
- Agree on changes with the other parent
- Let the court rule on disputed changes
Either way, a court will only modify an existing child custody plan under certain circumstances, such as:
- A shift in the child’s needs due to health, age, etc.
- A long-term change in the parent’s work schedule
- A shift in the family’s finances
- When the child is in danger
- When the parent refuses to honor the custody terms
Common Child Custody Questions
1. Are Custody Decisions Always Biased in Favor of Mothers?
2. Is It Possible to Get a Temporary Emergency Custody Order?
3. Can a Non-Custodial Parent Be Denied Visitation?
4. Do Grandparents Have Any Rights Related to Child Custody?
5. What is the Difference Between Mediation and Arbitration?
The main distinction is that a custody agreement reached through mediation is non-binding in court, whereas an agreement reached through arbitration can either be binding or non-binding. Most courts generally prefer both of these processes to a courtroom battle.
How We Can Help
The idea of having to battle for the right to be with your child can be overwhelming, both financially and emotionally. It’s so easy to make rash decisions in the heat of the moment. You need a family law attorney to help you make sense of everything and reach your goals quicker.
The experienced, award-winning child custody lawyers at Petrelli Previtera, LLC are on hand to help. We know a thing or two about crafting a durable custody schedule, and we want to put our knowledge to work for you.
When you retain us, rest assured that our focus will be on the child’s best interests. If a court hearing is necessary, our attorneys will relentlessly advocate for your visitation or custody rights. We can also help you create a conclusive parental plan outside of the courtroom. Whatever option you choose, our promise remains true: doing everything possible to bring clarity out of your child custody chaos.