If you are faced with having to go through a child custody dispute, you should be familiar with the basic aspects of child custody law and have an understanding of how the process works. Unless you are fully knowledgeable, always hire a qualified child custody attorney who is good in family law.
First, there are two basic aspects relating to the custody of a child – legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody covers the responsibility and decision making regarding the child’s basic needs like for health, education and welfare. If only one parent has been given sole legal custody, then that parent can make all decisions relating to the children without consulting the other parent. Sometimes parents will be given joint legal custody and decisions will then have to be made jointly. There may be various degrees of custody depending on the individual case. For example, a parent may have legal custody, but they may also have a duty of consultation with the other parent to inform them prior to any decision being made. However, it is quite common that one parent will have the decision making authority to avoid a situation where the parties will become deadlocked and can’t reach a decision.
The other aspect of child custody law is the physical custody. This determines where the child will physically be living. Sole physical custody means the child will be primarily with one parent and will have visitation with the other parent. On the other end is true joint physical custody where the parents have equal time with the children. There may be other possibilities for physical custody.
Physical Custody is always open to disputes as each parent will want to fight for their own right first and foremost. However, the law will need to look at the best interest of the child first. However, the best interest of the child may not be easily defined in real life and what seems best to one party may not appear so to be to another party. .
The court will try to be fair to both parents but more often than not, equal time between parents is usually not possible or practical and one parent will have to make the sacrifice. I believe that parents should also accept that the needs of the child come first and not to focus only on what they themselves want. Too often parents focus only on why the other parent should not have custody and they fail to see their own shortcomings.
Emotions can run high in child custody disputes but in the end, the actual decision on each case must be based only on the facts of that case itself. Parents should avoid comparing custody cases of other people that they deem similar.
When there is an inevitable divorce, it is most important that parents work out a custody arrangement first, setting out how the parties will approach custody and visitation time with their children. Although the Courts can order a custodial arrangement, agreements reached directly between the parents will have the best chance of working out than those enforced by the Court in the event of legal disputes.
By John Ben Lee