Types of Child Custody Cases and How Family Court Makes a Decision

One of the most stressful parts of divorce is the matter of child custody. It’s helpful to know a little something about the custody options and how judges decide what the best situation is for those children involved in the custody battle.

Four Types of Child Custody

  1. Physical Custody

This is primarily what people think of when they consider child custody cases. It has to do with the living arrangements of the child, or children. The parent granted physical custody has been given the right to have the children live with him or her at that parent’s home. In some cases, a judge may grant joint physical custody, which allows the children to share residences with both parents.

  1. Legal Custody

This type of custody gives a parent or guardian the right to make parenting decisions for the child. Issues involving healthcare, education, and day to day living are to be determined by the individual granted legal custody. In most states, family court will grant joint legal custody to both parents. This means the parents will work together and have to agree with each decision.

  1. Sole Custody

This is a rare circumstance, but it does happen. If the judge determines one parent is unfit to be a parent, sole custody may be granted to the other parent. Drug addiction, criminal activity, and a history of violence are common factors influencing the decision of the court to grant sole custody. Even in granting sole custody, the “unfit” parent may still be granted visitation rights, either supervised or unsupervised.

  1. Joint Custody

Joint custody allows parenting rights to each party, either as joint physical or joint legal custody. Often, joint custody is both legal and physical, as this provides the best option for keeping families from being any further divided.

How Are Child Custody Cases Decided?

If you’re in the middle of a child custody battle, you probably already have a family law attorney, such as Ron Saper P.C., advising you to attempt to settle custody issues with your former partner. That’s because an amicable agreement saves court time, hurt feelings, and further trauma for the child. If parents can agree to share custody, the children will feel more stable and everyone involved will feel more at ease with this new family dynamic.

In some cases, however, this isn’t possible. The next step is to pursue mediation out of court. If a facilitator can help a divorced couple agree upon terms of a custody arrangement, there won’t be a need to ask a judge to intervene. The couple can still settle their differences and come to terms about parenting responsibilities and rights on their own.

Finally, the case may go before a judge in family court. If this is the case, there will be a trial with each side dredging up what they can to tarnish the other person’s image before the judge. In the end, the judge will look at that testimony in combination with personal history, criminal records, and other factors relevant to each party’s fitness to be a parent. In making his decision, the judge’s primary concern is for the welfare and happiness of the child, so the child’s own wishes will also be considered. All of these factors paint a picture for the court and the judge has to use his best intuition in determining the best situation for each case.

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