An Overview on the Different Child Custody Options
If you’re in the process of a separation or divorce and you have minor children, certainly the topic of child custody arises. There is a common perception of custody and it is sometimes confused with the legal definition of child custody. So many times people refer to the parent that lives with the child the majority of the time as having sole custody. On the flip side, the parent who has the child on the weekend and other special times throughout the year as having visitation. The legal definition of those terms is a bit different.
Child Custody: Physical and Legal
Under the law, child custody is divided into two types: physical and legal. These are two different concepts. Legal custody decides the question as to who has the power to make big decisions for the child, while physical custody identifies where the children live. When it comes to divorce, it’s not uncommon for physical and legal custody to be different.
If you are awarded sole custody, this means that all of your custodial rights are awarded to just you. This is generally an unusual situation, as courts will not generally award sole custody to only one parent unless the other parent is deemed to be unfit. For example, if your spouse has a substance abuse problem, or if there are pending charges of child neglect and/or abuse, it may be determined that it’s in the best interest of the child to award you sole custody. It is highly advised to consult with an experienced Family attorney such as the Scottsdale AZ Family Trust Lawyer.
In regards to physical custody, it is the right for a parent to have their child physically present in their home. Keep in mind that joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that each parent has the child living with them 50 percent of the time, especially when the child is of school age. The courts will usually focus on the best interest of the child, and splitting the time equally is not usually practical, although it’s not entirely impossible either. When time is not split evenly, one parent is the primary parent and the other is the secondary parent.
Courts Want Both Parents Playing a Role
Unless the situation of one parent is extremely dire, the courts will work to have both parents play a major role in their child’s life. Even in the case of sole physical custody, the court may grant joint legal custody to both parents, giving the noncustodial parent a generous visitation schedule.
Joint legal custody provides the ability for both parents to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing together, even if one parent is the primary parent. If you share legal custody with your spouse, you must come to an agreement on certain issues, such as the child’s schooling, religious upbringing, medical care, and more.
For more information on child custody issues, it’s best to confer with an experienced family attorney who can provide you with all of your options. This is certainly not an easy time, but keep in mind you must make all decisions based on the best interest of your child.
A special thanks to authors at Hildebrand Law for their insight into Family Law.