An Overview of Child Custody Law

Following the separation of biological parents, the future of the offspring produced by the relationship is in question. Typically, contrary to popular tabloid fodder, these cases are easily settled out of court through competent legal professionals, but there are instances where vindictive or divisive ex-partners refuse to reach an amiable agreement on affable terms. Contentions between two parties in these forms of child custody battles generally do end up in family court with a judge presiding over their child custody dispute. In any case, knowing your legal options, rights, and incentives concerning child custody is completely pertinent to the jurisdiction where the child or children currently reside. For this reason, only a local lawyer is best suited to tackle your child custody dispute. Many times, though, a general overview of child custody and they various versions of custodianship a parent can obtain is helpful when communicating with your legal counsel or attorney. Knowing your rights as a parent, as well as the rights of your children, is an essential part of providing yourself and your child the ideal future together.

There are several notable and common forms of child custody, which include:

  • Sole Custody
  • Joint Custody
  • Legal Custody
  • Physical Custody

Physical Custody in Regards to Child Custody Rights

When the family courts deem a parent to have "physical custody," this parent has the legal right to allow the child or children to live in a shared residence. Many times, parents can share "joint physical custody" of a child if both parents are seen as fit to care for the child. Numerous issues can crop up in determining the physical custody rights of a parent, and in keeping with the best interests of a child, some family courts judge very stringently in regards to the lifestyle, residence, and history of parents actions towards the children.

Some reasons a parent may face denial of physical custody rights include:

  • Instances of physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Failure to provide a safe environment for the children
  • Unsafe associations, friends, or family members of parent
  • Past or current exhibitions of mental illness
  • Failure to meet child support of family court financial obligations

Legal Custody in Regards to Child Custody Rights

Besides simply caring for a child on a day-to-day basis and providing for basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing, the courts expect parents to make decisions in the best interests of their child or children. Part of being a parent is ensuring the right decisions for children, ones that will offer them the utmost development and ability to pursue future opportunities. Aside from physically caring for a child or children, parents must also think in the best interests of a child and act accordingly with these decisions. "Legal custody" is the parental rights to make decisions for a child.

Some decisions "legal custody" grant parents the right to make include:

  • Education
  • Medical care
  • Faith-based influences
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Future planning and decisions

For many cases, parents whom both exhibit sound reasoning capacity in the best interest of a child or children can share legal custody in a procedure known as "joint legal custody." Judges look favorably upon the beneficial nature of both mother and father being involved in a child's life, and thus, tend to award joint legal custody; however, there are numerous circumstances, which would not prove beneficial to both parents making decisions for a child. In some cases, the parents cannot simply put aside their resentments and disagreements to make any decision with a child's interests in mind. In these cases, a family court judge will intervene, which usually proves costly, emotionally charged, and potentially unwanted. For times where one parent is not or cannot seemingly prove themselves willing and able to care for a child or children, family court judges can implement sole custody arrangements.

Sole Custody in Regards to Child Custody Rights

Family courts can declare one parent the sole custody holder of a child or children. If another parent is seen as unhealthy or unfit for a child to be around, the courts will always act in the best interests of the child and award sole custody. Of the aforementioned reasons for a parent being denied physical custody of a child, the same are applicable in regards to a parent being awarded sole custody. Courts, however, do understand the importance of both parents in the lives of their children, and whenever feasibly possible, judges will work to keep both parents involved in a child or children's lives. This can be achieved even when one parent obtains sole custody through visitation rights and noncustodial parental visits.

Joint Custody in Regards to Child Custody Rights

When biological parents of a child or children no longer share a residence, these parents have the opportunity to share in the upbringing of children through join custody. Joint custody allows both parents to participate in the decision-making and daily upkeep of a child. More common than is realized by the general public, this custody arrangement is the most popular of all custody arrangements.

Methods of Establishing Child Custody Arrangements

Child custody arrangements begin at the personal level between two parents. Sometimes, an amicable rapport between the two separated parties allows for an appropriate and fair agreement to be reached by both parties without legal or court intervention. This proves inadvisable, however, as these agreements are not legally binding. For couples wishing to avoid family court, lawyers can legally and efficiently mediate and document appropriately any child custody agreement between two parties. Typically, the majority of couples choose to pursue this route. For couples that are on less than ideal terms, and in turn cannot set aside their differences in regards to caring for their children, family court intervention is the final destination. In a state family court, judges will mediate and rule over the child custody arrangements, and in doing so, will establish a legally binding court mandate. Both parents are obligated to follow this mandate in regards to their relationship with the child or children and failing to do so could result in contempt of court charges. Only a child custody lawyer is best suited to deal with issues as highly unique as child custody cases.

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