What Is Child Custody Arrangement?
Child custody is extremely sensitive when parents divorce or separate, making custody arrangements a crucial outcome in most family law cases. It is essential for parents to understand how child custody and visitation work.
The child custody arrangement is the legal or physical arrangement regarding the guardianship of a child. If parents cannot agree on child custody, a family court judge decides based on the child’s best interests.
To get a complete insight into child custody rights, you will need to understand the different types of child custody arrangements.
What Are the Most Common Child Custody Arrangements?
While child custody laws vary from state to state, the principles of custody arrangements are similar. State law determines what arrangement is best for your child based on the circumstances.
Here are the different types of child custody:
- Legal custody – who makes important decisions for your child(ren)
- Health care
- Physical custody – who your children live with
- Joint custody
- Sole custody
- Physical custody
Legal custody is an arrangement that grants a parent/guardian the right to take full responsibility for the critical decisions of a child’s upbringing. These decisions mainly include schooling, medical and health care, religious choices, and psychological counseling.
In most states, a mother automatically gains custody of the child whenever a mother is unmarried to the father. Most states grant joint legal custody or shared legal custody to both parents after divorce. Legal custody can also be given to one parent, called sole legal custody.
At times, some parties may not comply with the terms of the arrangement leading to protracted court battles, which can harm the child. It can also lead to the other party filing a petition at the family law court. A judge may grant one parent the right to make legal decisions but give the other the right to make physical decisions.
Legal custody refers to the person who will make decisions on behalf of the child, while physical custody refers to the person who will have physical custody of the child. The advantage of this type of arrangement is that both parents are encouraged to contribute to their children’s welfare.
If a parent is awarded physical custody, the child must live with them. Primary physical custody is given to one parent, although the other parent may be permitted to visit the child. Both parents will continue to provide for the child.
To allow the child to experience spending time with both parents, the family court can grant joint physical custody where the child will partially live with each parent for a given period of time as determined by the parents or the court.
If a parent acquires sole physical custody, they may not have the right to relocate with the children if the other parent has visitation rights. If the other party wants to stop the relocation, they might take the matter to court and prove that the relocation will have a negative effect on the minor child. During this time, seeking advice from a family law attorney is crucial.
This is an exclusive custody arrangement in which one parent is granted sole legal and physical custody of a child. In a sole custody arrangement, the parent has the right to decide on the child’s welfare in medical, schooling, religion, and other essential affairs without the other parent’s consent. Sole custody is awarded when the non-custodial parent cannot or is unfit to raise the child.
This may be due to the following reasons:
- If the parent neglects the child
- Abusive behavior
- Drug addiction
When one parent has sole custody, the other parent may visit the child if the legal parent allows it, or the court develops a visitation plan. In most cases, the court may rule so that the child can contact both parents, but sometimes the non-custodial parent may be denied visitation rights by the court.
Joint custody is the most common child custody agreement where parents have consistent contact with their children. In most states, the judge prefers joint physical custody arrangements over sole and physical arrangements. If one parent objects, they are supposed to provide substantial evidence to support their claim against co-parenting.
In joint legal custody, parents share common rights to make important choices regarding a child’s well-being. Though the custody is shared, the child may live with one parent while the other is granted visitation rights or takes the child temporarily.
When the parents differ and contest the child custody agreements, the family court may force a joint custody arrangement on them. In addition, the judge can appoint an attorney to serve the child’s best interest.
What Is the Difference Between Custody and Visitation?
Visitation, also called parenting time, is a limited form of custody where a non-custodial parent is allowed to visit the child but cannot make significant decisions about the child’s welfare. The court determines the visitation schedule, including the meeting time and place.
On the other hand, in legal custody, the parent has the right to make significant decisions on the child’s well-being. The child can also live with a parent with both physical and legal custody.
When the judge decides that the non-custodial parent is not harmful to the child, the child is allowed to have more extended visits to the parent. But if the parent poses a threat to the child, the visitation should be highly supervised.
Seek Help From a Child Custody Attorney
Consider seeking family legal help if you have custody issues so you can get a favorable custody arrangement under the laws in your state. An attorney can help you negotiate a reasonable arrangement that is in your child’s best interest.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Does the Court Decide Custody?
Mainly the court will determine which parent gets full custody based on the child’s best interest. The court will also assess the standard of living of both parents and make visitation and custody decisions to nurture the child’s physical security, emotional health, happiness, and evolvement.