If you are going through a divorce, you probably already have a lot on your mind. Your life is changing drastically, and there are a lot of details to consider about how your new life will look. If you are a parent, one major concern is likely your children. Determining child custody can be a difficult process, as it is often emotional to consider being away from one’s children.

Before you go into the courtroom, it is helpful to understand the different types of child custody arrangements at your disposal. Knowing and understanding these agreements can help you to determine what you want, and therefore what your attorney should fight for in court. Many divorcing parents do not understand the categories involved in child custody, though they are central to the process.

Legal vs. Physical Custody

One major concept to understand is that of legal custody vs. physical custody. These two are distinct and have a profound impact on the rights of the parents involved.

Legal custody is the right to make crucial decisions about the child’s life. These can be decisions surrounding:

  • Religion
  • Health care
  • Education

Other such decisions are involved in this category as well. All in all, it encompasses the big and important decisions that a parent or parents make for their children until they are old enough to do it for themselves. This type of care is distinct from physical custody.

Physical custody is what most people think of when considering custody agreements. This is time spent as the physical guardian of the child. We will discuss different types of physical custody and arrangements below.

Though many people do not consider it, legal and physical custody are not necessarily linked. A parent may have physical custody without legal custody, though the opposite is rarely true. The presence of each type depends on the agreement set forth by the courts.

Types of Physical Custody

One of the main decisions involved in custody is how often the child will be with each parent. In some cases, the parents share time caring for the child. In other situations, it is healthier for the child to reside mainly or completely with one parent. Though the court will ultimately decide, it is important to know the types of physical custody that exist.

Sole Custody

Sole custody is when one of the parents has all of the physical and legal custody of their child. This means that the custodial parent cares for the child 100% of the time and is empowered to make all legal decisions concerning the child. In some situations, the other parent has visitation rights, meaning that they are allowed to have supervised time with the child or children. In other situations, they do not.

Joint Custody

Joint custody involves both parents sharing responsibility for their children in some way. There are many different ways to arrange this.

The first aspect of joint custody is physical custody. This depends on the family schedule and the ability of each parent to care for the kids. For example, one parent may get the children during the week and the other gets them on the weekends. Sometimes the week is split in half and holidays are alternated. Other times each parent gets the child for a full week and then the other gets the child for a full week. There are nearly endless possibilities.

The second part of joint custody is legal custody. This also depends on the individual situation. For example, a family may opt for the parents to share legal custody as well. This would mean that issues concerning healthcare, education, religion, etc., would be determined by both parents acting together.

In other situations, parents share physical custody, but one parent has sole legal custody. This way, the parents do not have to work together to make big decisions, but the child still has access to both of their parents.

As you can see, joint custody has quite a few arrangements and options to choose from.

In rare situations, families with multiple children give sole custody of one child/children to one parent, and sole custody of the other child/children to the other parent. This is rare, and generally only suggested in unique situations.

What Does the Court Take Into Account in Custody Cases?

Many people worry about their custody case because they are unsure of what the court considers during these situations. It is important to understand that the court only cares about one thing: the well-being of the child. Of course, there are many aspects of well-being and safety to consider. These include:

  • Whether the parent has a safe and stable home for the child.
  • Whether the parent has the physical and emotional capacities to care for the child.
  • Whether the parent can provide financial support either alone or with the help of child support payments.
  • Whether the parent has the schedule to adequately care for the child.
  • The child’s personal relationship with the parent.

In order for the court to grant you even partial custody, they must see that you have the ability to meet your child’s needs without the help of another person.

What If My Circumstances Change?

It is important to understand that custody agreements do not have to be forever. Sometimes, circumstances change, and you may need to make modifications to a child custody agreement. This is entirely possible, and the court is able to reassess your situation if significant changes have occurred. For example, if you have joint custody with your spouse, but your spouse gets a high-pressure job that leaves them without the time and attention to care for the children, the judge may modify your agreement to sole custody instead. Alternatively, if one parent is not fit to care for the children at the time of the original ruling, but makes significant changes to their lifestyle, the judge may be able to offer them increased custody through a modification.

Contact Stange Law Firm

No matter your situation, it is important to have a qualified lawyer on your side during your child custody case. Your ex’s attorney will likely try to diminish your character in order to gain the best possible outcome for their client. Hiring an attorney ensures that you put your best foot forward in court and give yourself the best option for a desirable custody agreement.

To learn more, contact us online today.