Child custody is often one of the most sensitive and emotional issues in the divorce process. Child custody deals with who has custody over the children after a divorce or separation. Child custody may be awarded to one or both biological parents, grandparents, stepparents, or other possible legal guardians of the child. The parties involved in a divorce typically reach an agreement on custody and that agreement is approved by a judge. When an agreement cannot be reached, it is up to a family law judge to make a determination. The primary concern in child custody will always be the child’s best interests.
There are typically two types of child custody: physical and legal. Physical custody usually determines who will be the primary caretaker of the child and where the child will have his/her primary residence. Legal custody involves the parent’s ability to determine matters relating to their child’s welfare including healthcare, education, religion, activities, and other issues.
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Judges typically consider that frequent contact with both parents following a divorce is in the best interests of the child (when abuse and other complications are not involved). The decision may be reached to grant joint custody or shared responsibility for the child. In joint custody, both parties must discuss and reach mutually agreed upon decisions on matters relating to the child.
In certain cases, the determination may be made that one parent is unfit to act as the primary caretaker of the child. In this case, sole custody may be granted to one parent. If sole custody is granted, the primary custodian would have the sole responsibility and right to make all major decisions related to the child without discussing those decisions with the other parent.
Once a custody agreement is determined, there will also need to be a decision made about child visitation rights for the non-custodial parent. The judge will also make a determination related to child support that is to be paid by the non-custodial parent to assist with financial concerns and responsibilities of raising the child.
Many issues are taken into consideration when determining child custody and visitation rights. Often the age of the child, the child’s preference (when appropriate), financial matters, relationship between the child and parents, household stability and any evidence of abuse or neglect are key areas that are investigated and examined.
The experienced team at McManus Law Firm can help protect your rights and make sure your interests are of paramount consideration if you have children and are going through divorce.