When parents end their relationship, they need to resolve many things to provide the best future for the children. This includes decisions about where the children will live and how much time each parent spends with them.
Fighting and negotiating on custody can be complicated, especially if many factors are at play. For example, one of the couples wants to be remarried, or the kids are over 10 years old. A divorce attorney for men can also argue that the mother is unfit, and thus, he wants full custody of the children.
While parents might not agree on every detail, some common types of child custody arrangements are possible, given the former couple’s unique situation:
1. Joint Legal Custody
The parents make all major decisions about the child’s life together, such as education, health care, and religion). Even if one parent lives in another state, the court can still grant joint legal custody, so both parents have a say in important issues affecting their son or daughter. Sometimes this is called “shared” or “divided” parenting.
2. Joint Physical Custody
The child lives with each parent for a substantial amount of time. If parents share joint physical custody, they can alternate months or weekends with the child. Sometimes this is called “shared parenting,” and sometimes, it’s just called “joint custody.”
3. Sole Legal Custody
One parent makes all major decisions about the child’s life (such as education, health care, and religion). This does not mean that the other cannot have physical custody or visitation rights. Some states use the term “decision-making authority” rather than “legal custody.”
4. Sole Physical Custody
The actual arrangement depends on which state the parents live in. In some states, it means one parent is the residential custodian of a child – meaning that they live with the child – and the other parent has visitation rights, or “parenting time.” In other states, sole physical custody is an absolute arrangement where only one parent lives with the children and provides their day-to-day care.
Courts might not require the parents to create any specific custody arrangement, leaving them to decide on one themselves. However, even under this arrangement, the court can lay out minimum visitation time that the parent must follow.
Who Decides Who Get Custody?
The court decides custody based on what is in the best interest of the child. This often means they look at which parent has been the primary caregiver and whether the ex-spouse is likely to frustrate visitation efforts. Judges will also look at factors such as:
• Which parent has better parenting skills and can provide a stable home environment? (Parents don’t need to be perfect, just well suited to care for the son or daughter.)
• How cooperative are the parents with each other? Do they try to work out decisions together? Or do they spend more time trying to undermine each other than cooperating?
• What’s the child’s relationship like with both parents? Do they want to live with each of either or both?
• How old is the child? Sometimes the court allows the kid, depending on their age, to decide where they want to live.
• What’s the best way to parent children?
• Which parent has been the primary caregiver during the marriage (meaning whom the child spent more time with)
• Whether either parent has interfered with visitation in any way
• Each parent’s work schedule and whether it would be practical for one of them to stay home with the child if necessary
• How well the parents and child can communicate together about parenting issues
• The child’s wishes, which are taken into consideration but not usually controlling
If the ex-partners can’t reach an agreement about custody, one of them will need to file a custody petition with the local family law court. This usually starts with one person (usually the mother) filing what’s called an “application for temporary orders.”
The other parent can then respond by submitting an “answer” that explains why they disagree with what the first parent asks. Once this exchange takes place, both parents will be required to attend a hearing to present their cases for custody. The judge will listen to both sides and then issue a ruling based on what they believe is in the child’s best interest.
A custody battle can take a few months to a year, depending on the state and other factors such as how each parent behaved in court. For this reason, parents who want the best for their children have to consider negotiating their arrangements out of court to help lessen the stress and even costs.