Child custody is often one of the most difficult issues to deal with during a divorce. The parents are faced with possibly having their rights to see their children restricted or even removed. A custody battle can be bitter and emerging victorious requires knowledge of the law and the ability to persevere. A child custody lawyer can make the process much easier and less stressful for all involved.
The four types of custody are: physical, legal, joint, and sole. Physical custody is the right to live with the child and legal custody is the right to make decisions regarding the life of the child. Sole custody can result in one parent having limited involvement and joint custody enables both parents to remain involved in the lives of their children. A judge may order joint or sole physical custody and joint or sole legal custody of the children.
Parents may be able to reach a child custody and visitation agreement out of court with the input of a mediator, counselor, or custody lawyer. In this situation, there is no standard result regarding custody. Possible arrangements include joint physical and legal custody or sole physical custody with a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent.
If the custody case goes to court, a family court judge is typically responsible for the child custody decision. Most courts consider a standard set of factors and follow the same procedure. Whether the decision is made in court or through parental agreement, the factors considered are usually the same. The best interest of the child is the most important item and the child may be asked if he or she has a preference regarding living arrangements.
What determines the best interest of the child? Aspects like religion, culture, the physical and mental health of the parents, the need to maintain a stable home environment, support and interaction with extended family members, sex and age of the child, and adjustment to community and school. Interrelationships and interactions with other household members may also be considered. Parental factors like emotional abuse, excessive discipline, and evidence of sexual, drug, or alcohol abuse will also affect the decision.
When both parents attempt to win custody of kids, things can get ugly. The judge must consider many factors in order to uphold the best interest standard for custody decisions. An experienced child custody lawyer can help parents exercise their custody rights so they receive amount and type of custody to which they are entitled.