Child Custody Attorneys
Child custody is usually the most painful, difficult, and sensitive part of a divorce. The courts have a duty to serve the best interests of the child, regardless of how it affects the parents. Most states prefer an arrangement where the child has continuing and positive contact with both parents, unless child abuse has been involved.
Types of custody
- Sole physical custody – the child lives with one parent, the other parent normally has limited visitation rights
- Joint physical custody – the child alternates living between both parents, normally on a schedule set by a court order
- Sole legal custody – one parent makes all of the decisions about the child’s life such as health, education and religion
- Joint legal custody – both parents participate in the decision making
The custodial parent is the parent who has sole physical custody or the greatest portion of physical custody. In some states this means the parent with whom the child spends 51% or more of their time. Child support is normally paid to the custodial parent.
Establishing a parenting plan
The best way to solve child custody issues is through a parenting plan that is worked out and agreed to between the parents outside of the court. In most cases the court will approve and instate this plan and a custody battle can be avoided.
In some custody battles the court will appoint an attorney to represent the child independently of the parents. This does not make the child a party who is suing for their own wishes, but means that they are represented by an objective third party who can help advise the court on matters with a bias for the child rather than either parent. Often an advocate is appointed if one or both parents claim that the other parent has abused the child.
When parents cannot reach an agreement
Custody battles can be expensive, lengthy, and emotionally scarring for everyone involved, especially the children. Complicated cases can involve evaluation by, and testimony from, psychologists and social workers. The courts look favorably on parents who make every effort to make the process as easy as possible on their children rather than pushing for their own gain. In some cases both parents behave so badly and with such little regard for their children that the courts decide to place the child or children with a grandparent or other guardian.
Parents are often shocked by the factors that influence custody decisions. For instance, a strict church-going father may feel that he will obviously be favored over an ex-spouse who is an exotic dancer, but legally there is no basis for that favor, and it will not be an advantage in court. Placing emphasis on such issues can hurt a parent’s case. Most custody orders include a clause that bars parents from making disparaging remarks about the other parent to, or in front of, the child. Parents who harp on moral and religious differences in court are considered to be more likely to badmouth the other parent, a higher risk for kidnapping, and generally do not give the impression that they are going to act in the child’s best interest.
Until recently, mothers had a significant advantage over fathers in custody battles. Some judges still lean toward granting custody to women, but most do not.
A proven history of domestic violence does not automatically mean that a parent will not be awarded custody. As long as the parent abused the spouse and not the child, he or she can still get custody, even when there is a permanent restraining order that prohibits contact between the parents.
An experienced child custody attorney knows which issues are legally pertinent and can advise you as to which facts to bring up and which facts to leave alone in court. One function that your attorney serves in a child custody case is to prevent you from letting your emotions ruin your case.
If you are facing a divorce and have children or are facing child custody issues for any reason, contact an experienced child custody attorney today.