A child custody battle is not a pleasant situation for anyone involved. Parents are already emotionally and financially strained if in the midst of a divorce and children are facing a future of living in a broken family. If the adults do not agree on custody arrangements for their children, a nasty fight can develop. This takes the issue out of the hands of the parents and attorney or mediator and puts it into the hands of a court. A child custody attorney that can handle these crazy situations is necessary.

The decision made by a court is based on the best interest of the children involved. In most cases, one parent is granted physical custody but shares legal custody with the other parent. Legal custody is the right to make decisions about the health care, religion, education, and other important aspects of the child rearing process. With a joint custody arrangement, children spend almost an equal amount of time with both parents.

In some cases, one parent fights for custody and the other does not agree to the arrangement. When this happens, an out-of-court parenting agreement or custody arrangement cannot be used. The case must be taken to family court and heard by a judge. At this point, each parent should retain a custody lawyer who will act in his or her best interests. Getting professional representation increases the likelihood of an agreeable outcome.

The court reviews several factors when considering who should be granted custody of a child. Aside from the primary consideration, the best interests of the child, the court may consider the gender, medical history, and age of the child, the physical and financial ability of the parent to provide living essentials, and the wishes of the parents. If the child is at least 12 years old, the court may request his or her choice in the matter.

When parents are unmarried, most state statutes dictate awarding sole physical custody to the mother unless the father fights for custody. It is unusual for an unwed father to be awarded custody over a mother deemed a good parent. However, the father can petition the court for some visitation and custody rights.

Parties other than parents of the child, such as aunts, uncles, or grandparents, may want to receive custody. This is commonly called third-party or non-parental custody. Each state has its own procedures for handling this situation and the process involves the court. If the parents are still alive and their whereabouts are known, they usually must be informed of this petition. Only a child custody attorney can properly advise you of your rights and your chances of victory.

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