Once your decision to divorce is confirmed, and you file the appropriate paperwork, agreeing on custody arrangements is often the most challenging part of the process. How will the rights and responsibilities of being a parent be split after your divorce?
While your best bet is to consult with a divorce attorney, you should always have a clear idea of the types of custody arrangements available to parents in your state. Let’s discuss!
Types of Custody
The most common custody arrangements include:
Having the obligation and right to make decisions regarding your child’s upbringing is the most critical component of legal custody. Any parent awarded legal custody can make important legal decisions for their children. This includes the child’s schooling, medical care, religious matters, and other decisions necessary for raising a child today.
In many cases, courts award joint legal custody to parents. This means that both parents have equal rights in the decision-making process. It’s essential to fully understand the ins and outs of legal custody regardless of what you’ve been awarded in your case.
Failing to uphold the legal obligations of your custody arrangement can result in serious issues. For example, suppose you share joint legal custody with your ex-partner and exclude them from the decision-making process. In that case, your partner has the right to take you to court and ask the judge to enforce the custody. In some cases, judges will revoke your privileges if you fail to meet your legal custody obligations.
If one parent is deemed unfit to take care of the child, the court won’t hesitate to award sole custody to one parent. Sole custody simply means that only one parent has the legal rights and responsibilities for the child. While the other parent may be awarded visitation, they have no legal rights or decision-making responsibilities for the child.
Most states try to shy away from sole custody unless there is a concern for the child’s safety and wellbeing. Since most states see the importance of both parents’ roles in child development, it’s typically difficult to be awarded sole custody.
Even if a court awards sole legal custody, most parents are still allowed shared time and generous visitations to maintain the balance. However, the parent awarded sole custody remains the primary physical caretaker and is in charge of making all critical decisions regarding the child.
Joint custody is the most common custody agreement in the United States. While both parents are no longer together, they still hold equal visitation and decision-making in their child’s life when joint custody is arranged. Joint custody is popular because both parents divide the children’s decision-making responsibilities and physical control while playing equally essential roles in their child’s development.
With joint custody, the parents plan a schedule for the children suitable to all parties’ work and school schedules and the child’s comfort. If a conflict arises between the two parties regarding the schedule, the court plays its role in imposing an arrangement. The most common plan is 50/50 parenting, in which both parents get equal time with their children. For example, parents will alternate weeks or split the week to ensure everyone has equal time together.
Physical custody refers to the parent with who the child lives full-time. Most states favor joint physical custody, but this only works if both parties live close to each other. This helps children maintain a routine to some extent.
If the child lives with one parent or prefers to primarily be with one parent, the other parent typically has arranged visitation. Still, in other agreements, a child can stay with one parent every other weekend and maintain physical custody with the other parent. The parent with whom the child primarily lives is known as the custodial parent. However, the non-custodial parent has the right to visitation as suggested by the agreement.
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