During a divorce, most parents and courts negotiate joint custody of minor children. In this arrangement, children spend time living with each parent and both parents have the right to make childrearing decisions. In some divorces, one parent may want to file for sole physical and legal custody of minor children. This parent is likely to be more successful with child custody help from a family law attorney.
Filing for sole custody in divorce can be overwhelming because every state has different laws and follows different processes. Paperwork errors or omissions can prevent a parent from getting sole custody or any custody at all. An experienced family lawyer practicing in the state can explain relevant laws and help a parent complete and file a custody petition and other required paperwork. If parents choose to negotiate custody arrangements themselves, this attorney can assist with the discussions.
If a parent does not win sole custody in divorce but is later interested in receiving it, a motion must be filed to alter the existing custody agreement. This process varies by state but the filing parent is usually required to explain why the change is desired. A family lawyer will help prepare this explanation and file it with the petition. The other parent will receive a copy of the form and petition and the serving parent must complete and file a proof of service with the court.
In response to the petition or motion, both parents will receive either a date for a mediator meeting or a court hearing date. Lawyers representing the parents are usually allowed to attend these meetings but both parents must also be present. Parents save money on legal charges and court fees if they can agree on custody out of court.
Sole custody is rarely awarded, so the petitioning parent should be prepared to present evidence proving that the other parent is an unfit caregiver. Acceptable documentation includes photographs, emails, witnesses, and police reports illustrating that the other parent represents a danger to the child. The judge will also review the living situation, employment history, health, and any history of abuse on the part of the petitioning parent.
With help from a family law attorney, a mother or father who is a suitable caregiver can win sole custody in divorce. Family lawyers can also help custodial parents get child support to make childrearing more affordable. Divorcing couples with children should discuss their situations with these specialized attorneys to learn more about their options.