Working out a parenting agreement that covers child custody and visitation can be a confusing and difficult process, especially when there’s animosity between you and the other parent. The attorneys at Goldfinch Winslow understand this and want to help you every way possible. We’d like to explain some of the most common questions we receive about the child custody process.
What Factors Does a Court Consider When Determining Child Custody?
All child custody decisions are made according to the “child’s best interest” standard. A court considers several factors when making child custody decisions; some factors relate to the child and others relate to the parents.
Some factors relating to the child may include:
• Considerations of the child’s age, sex, and mental/emotional/social development.
• The degree of emotional “attachment” of the child to each parent.
• The child’s ability to adjust to family arrangements and school environments.
• The child’s preferences, if they are of legal age or are deemed capable of rendering sound legal decisions (usually at about 12-14 years old in most states)
The factors relating to the parents include:
• How involved each individual parent has been in the child’s upbringing.
• The physical, emotional, social, and financial stability of each parent.
• The willingness of each parent to act cooperatively with the other parent.
• The geographic residence of each parent.
• Any history of child abuse or domestic violence.
Which Parent Is More Likely to Be Granted Sole Custody – the Father or the Mother?
In the past, most judges would award sole custody of small children to the mother. The father would then provide child support and be granted visitation hours. It was assumed that the mother would have more time to commit to the child, while the father would be better suited to provide financially for the child.
However, this practice has been dropped by many states. Instead, the court will grant sole custody based on the child’s best interest. For example, if the mother works longer hours than the father, the judge may decide that it is in the child’s best interest to grant sole custody to the father.
Many parties in a divorce still base their petitions on outdated custody practices. It often happens that a father does not understand his parental rights because he assumes that the court will award custody to the mother. He may not be aware that he can argue for sole custody if it will benefit the child.
What Is Sole Custody?
Sole custody (also known as full custody) refers to a custody arrangement wherein one parent assumes all or nearly all of the child-rearing responsibilities after a divorce. The definition of sole custody may differ according to jurisdiction. In most states, “sole custody” usually means that one parent has both physical and legal custody of the child.
Thus, if a parent is granted sole custody of a child it usually means that the child lives with them and that they are responsible for making important decisions for the child. The “non-custodial parent” usually makes financial contributions through child support, and may be granted partial or limited visitation rights depending on the circumstances.
What Is Shared Custody?
Shared custody refers to a custody arrangement wherein both parents assume some responsibility for the upbringing of the children. Shared custody can be divided into two types: Joint Custody and Split Custody.
Joint custody is where both parents equally share legal and physical custody of the children. Both parties are entitled to make decisions for the children, and are usually granted an equal amount of time with the children through an alternating visitation schedule.
Split custody occurs where there are multiple children involved. In split custody, each parent may be charged with responsibility for some of the children, while the other parent is responsible for the other siblings. Shared custody may also involve some form of non-parental custody, such as when a grandparent assumes custody of a child.
What Is Child Support and What Does It Cover?
Child support refers to monetary payments that are made by one parent to another in a divorce case. Child support laws usually require the non-custodial parent to provide for the child’s basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, and education. The non-custodial parent is usually not required to provide for unnecessary expenses such as luxury items.
Due to the difficulty in enforcing child support payments, it is best if a child support agreement is approved by a court so that it is backed by the force of law.
Who Decides upon Visitation Schedules?
Visitation schedules must be created in a manner that serves the child’s best interest, while at the same time being fair for both parents. In some jurisdictions, if one parent is awarded sole custody, they will also be allowed to set the visitation schedule.
In some cases, the parents can mutually agree upon a visitation schedule and then submit it to the judge for approval. However, if the parents cannot reach a suitable visitation agreement, then the court will have to create the visitation order for the parties. Again, all visitation schedules should revolve around the child’s needs and not the parents’.
Child custody issues can often be difficult to deal with. If you are involved in a dispute over child custody, don’t hesitate to call the attorneys at Goldfinch Winslow for advice. We can assist you throughout the custody hearings so that your child’s best interests are fully met. It is best to contact us before the proceedings begin so that we can help you in preparing your case.