As a skilled divorce lawyer doesn’t need to explain, family law involves sensitive issues. One of the issues most fought over is child custody disputes. The three common issues that arise in child custody disputes are: legal custody, residential custody and parenting time. We will briefly explore these three important topics.
I. Legal Custody
Legal custody refers to the legal decision making for the minor child. Most states refer to the two different types of legal custody as sole custody or joint custody. Most states favor joint custody but under certain circumstances sole custody is ordered by a family court judge. Joint custody means that both parents have equal rights in making key decisions for the minor child, especially major healthcare decisions. Both parents must confer on important issues like this and usually when parents have joint custody, they have full access to school records, medical records and points of contact for emergencies as well.
II. Residential Custody
Residential custody deals with where the minor child will reside the majority of the time. The parent with whom the child resides may be called the primary parent, residential parent or custodial parent. The non-custodial parent is the parent who has a parenting time plan and where the minor child stays when he or she is not at the primary residence. In some situations, there is shared residential custody where both parents try to have equal time with the minor child. Usually, to make that work, the parents would need to live near each other for many reasons however, I have represented people that lived one hour away and still had shared parenting time.
III. Parenting Time (Formerly Visitation)
The last aspect of a custody case once a Judge decides who will have residential custody or an aspect of the custody decision is parenting time. Realistically, how often can the non-custodial parent see the child and when the child can have overnights with that parent. Work schedules, school schedules, vacation schedules, after school and weekend activities are also factors in the this realm of custody. The key to successful parenting schedules is consistency. Cancelling parenting time will only hurt the child and it can hurt badly so make a plan that you can actually stick to.