Child custody refers to the rights and obligations between parents, regarding their children, after a divorce, legal separation, or paternity decree. There are two independent types of custody.
Physical custody refers to the amount of time each parent is permitted physically with a child. This may be sole, primary, or joint custody.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s decision-making rights regarding a child’s health, education, and welfare. It, too, may be sole, primary, or joint custody.
Often, the Court designates one parent as the primary physical custodian, giving the other parent a schedule of temporary custody and visitation. In some cases, however, the Court orders a joint legal and physical custody, by which, both parents have substantial access to their children.
The Court’s decision in a particular case is based upon, among other things, the child’s wishes, each parent’s historical nurturing role, and the relative circumstances of the parties going into the future.
At Cordell & Cordell, we regard it as a basic truth that father-child relationship is as important as the mother-child relationship and that gender-based discrimination in family court is unconscionable. Representing a father in a custody case is a challenging task requiring an attorney willing to advocate for fathers’ rights.
In a system seemingly predisposed against them, men can only hope to succeed by using all the help available to them, both legally and strategically. Cordell & Cordell has built its practice on helping men do just that.
Child Custody Objective
The child custody objective is the most difficult juncture in the divorce process: do you go for primary custody, 50-50 custody or temporary custody? These are essentially your three options.
In most cases a child will live primarily with one parent at one residence with routine time with the other parent. The courts deem that parents have “custody” of children. There are two kinds of custody: “legal custody” and “physical custody” (further divided into “sole physical custody” and “joint physical custody”).
Legal custody is a parent’s legal right and responsibility to make decisions for a minor child pertaining to items such as health and education. In the majority of cases both parents retain legal custody unless there is a compelling reason. Even if a parent is not awarded physical custody, many times he or she will retain legal custody.
Physical custody can be the most divisive, heated and contested part of any divorce. The decision of where the children live often limits one parent’s time with the children. The party that retains custody will likely receive child support. This is true even in joint custody.
Factors Determining Outcome of Custody
If you have ever been involved in a child custody case or you are about to begin one you most likely have heard the phrase “best interests of the child.” Almost every state determines custody and visitation issues based on the best interests of the child standard.
State statutes and case law define this standard differently, but in general there are certain common sense factors and themes that appear in the majority of states. The list of factors fall into four categories:
- the historical picture examining each parent’s role in nurturing the child since birth;
- the prospective picture considering the parents’ situations going into the future;
- status concerns referring to the personality or behavioral traits of each party; and
- the preference of the child.
The best advice anyone could give a dad preparing for a custody battle is to become as active as possible in the lives of his children and to document everything.
Throughout the divorce process, realize that the court will evaluate your behavior in its entirety, taking into account not only the facts of the case, but also your demeanor. Irrational and aggressive behavior may have a profoundly detrimental effect on your case, so be mindful of your actions throughout the proceedings.
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