While it’s an unfortunate process to have to go through, one of the more common results of divorce or a separation of spouses is the need to determine custody for any children involved. Keeping the best interests of the child or children is of paramount importance, as is ensuring that both parents are able to carry out their duties properly and safely.
At the offices of Day, Shell & Liljenquist, LC, a child custody attorney is always available to assist with your case. You might hear a few different terms here when it comes to the types of custody possible – let’s go over the basics you need to know here, plus why certain types of custody might be favored in certain cases.
Types of Custody
First of all, it’s important to remember that there are two distinct formats of legal custody possible in the US. These are defined as follows:
- Legal custody: This is a form of custody that allows the parent the right to make decisions on behalf of the child, plus have access to their private information. A parent with this form of custody would have the ability to make decisions on which school to send a child to, for instance, or about their healthcare.
- Physical custody: This refers to the parent’s right to be physically present in the life of the child, including having the child live with them. Parents with physical custody can have children in their home.
Now, this is just one set of custody definitions. It’s also vital to know the difference between “shared” and “sole” custody – the basic definitions are simple enough, but our next two sections will go over the situations where each will be preferred.
Shared Custody Generally Preferred
Shared custody, or a format where both parents have some amount of physical and legal custody over the child, is generally preferred in all cases where it’s possible. It’s generally best to allow the child to maintain relationships with both parents, which can keep stability in their lives.
In shared custody, both parents can make decisions for the child and be present. These arrangements do require some compromise and communication among parents, which is why they aren’t always possible.
One important caveat: Shared custody does not necessarily mean that both parents have equal rights. While this is often the specific arrangement, it’s also possible for one parent to be afforded a greater degree of custody than the other, particularly when it comes to physical custody.
Reasons for Sole Custody
If the best interests of the child dictate it, however, the courts may rule that a single parent should maintain sole custody. This will generally only happen when the court views evidence that one parent would not be physically, emotionally or psychologically fit to care for the child. Some specific circumstances here include:
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol
- History of domestic abuse of any kind
- History of mental or physical disability
- Inability to provide a stable home due to travel or some other reason
- Visibly absent from the child’s life (often due to living in a different state)
One important note: Sole custody does not mean that the non-custody parent can never see the child. Sometimes this situation is due to proximity or other reasons, and visitation rights can be set up.
For more on child custody, or to learn about any of our family law attorney services, speak to the staff at the offices of Day, Shell & Liljenquist, LC today.