When the family unit includes children, divorce becomes much more complicated. Both parents may attempt to win custody in divorce, pitting one adult against the other. Joint custody is one solution, allowing parents to share physical and legal responsibility for their children. Getting joint custody requires understanding what courts consider when making custody decisions.
Though both parents may deem themselves suitable caregivers, courts consider the best interests of the child when determining which parent receives custody. If a court grants joint custody, the parents share physical and legal custody equally. They split caretaking time evenly and share equal responsibility for making decisions regarding the welfare and upbringing of their children. Getting joint custody in both physical and legal senses is rare because it is associated with practical issues such as scheduling and costs as well as personal troubles such as disruption of the routines of the child.
Joint legal custody is a more common arrangement that involves parents sharing the right to make childrearing and other key decisions. In this situation, one parent is awarded primary physical custody and the other parent receives visitation rights. This creates a stable environment for the child and minimizes the scheduling arrangements required.
Parents attempting to win custody during divorce should understand the many factors that come into play. If parents manage to avoid a custody fight during divorce and reach a child custody and visitation agreement out of court, the answer to who gets custody is determined by the parents. the decision may be reached during an informal settlement negotiation or an alternative dispute resolution process. Some states require divorcing parents to use mediation to resolve custody disputes during divorce.
Letting the Courts Make the Custody Decision
If parents are unable to come to a custody agreement, a family court judge will make the decision. Most courts follow a similar procedure that is guided by common principles and involves standard considerations. The judge takes into account who is the primary caretaker, what arrangement is in the best interests of the child, and possibly, what the child prefers.
Child custody help in the form of an attorney can help parents negotiate joint custody in divorce. Whether parents are attempting to arrange custody out-of-court or the case is being heard by a family court judge, things will progress more smoothly with a legal expert on the team. Parents wishing to avoid a joint custody battle in divorce should consider getting legal representation.