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?

No. Times have changed. In this era, mothers and fathers are viewed in the same light—both equally capable of being breadwinners and participating in child-rearing duties. As such, courts no longer take a biased approach when awarding custody. They typically base their decisions on the best interests of the child. If joint custody is off the table, they look for the parent who’ll ensure the child gets the best preparation possible for their adult life.

2. Is It Possible to Get a Temporary Emergency Custody Order?

Yes, sometimes courts will issue a temporary emergency custody order. However, for this to happen, there must be a true emergency. A common reason to seek a temporary emergency custody order is when the child is a victim of neglect or physical abuse.

3. Can a Non-Custodial Parent Be Denied Visitation?

Although a rare occurrence, it is possible for a non-custodial parent to be denied any visitation. Most of these instances involve a threat or danger from the non-custodial parent. This might include past convictions or allegations of abuse, alcohol or drug addiction, or the knowledge that the non-custodial parent would take the child out of state.

4. Do Grandparents Have Any Rights Related to Child Custody?

Technically, grandparents have no legal rights pertaining to child custody. However, some circumstances may allow grandparents to seek custody, i.e., if the children are unsafe with their parents. Often, when grandparents have custody, they are also eligible for child support.

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.

Call (866) 465-5395 to schedule an appointment.