Child custody can be one of the most contentious issues that comes up in a divorce case. For our readers, that is probably understandable, since parents only want what is best for their children. The problem that arises in child custody disputes is that sometimes, parents disagree on what, exactly, is in their child’s best interests. Understanding the basics of child custody can help parents come to terms with how their specific legal arrangement will turn out.
For starters, there are two parts of the child custody puzzle: “legal” custody and “physical” custody. Legal custody refers to which of the parents — or both — has the right to make important decisions about how the child will be raised, such as where the child will go to school, where the child will receive medical care and what type of medical care will be given and how the child will spend time in extracurricular activities. In essence, the parent with “legal” custody of the child gets to make the decisions that will have the biggest effect on the child’s life. Most family law judges though, prefer that both parents have legal custody, thereby, having the ability to give input on these important decisions.
Physical custody refers to which parent the child will live with. Again, most family law judges prefer “joint” physical custody, which ensures that the child will get to spend at least some time at the home of each parent. But, physical custody arrangements can vary widely, depending on the specific needs of the family in question.
Child custody issues can be quite difficult in some cases. Getting the right information about how the basics of the issue will be addressed in any given case is crucial.