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Married or not, couples with children who make the choice to end their relationship may face a custody battle. As our Family Law team counsels our clients, we first seek to educate them about the process, system, and factors considered in child custody matters. Read on to learn what to expect when you’re seeking custody of your child.
There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody involves the right of parents to make major decisions concerning a child, including, but not limited to; medical, educational, religious, participation in after school activities, etc. There are two forms of legal custody: sole and shared. Sole legal custody provides for one parent to make all of the aforementioned decisions. Shared legal custody requires the parents to consult one another when making said decisions. Absent a showing that one party is incapable of making such decisions, courts will usually order shared legal custody.
Physical custody pertains to where the child resides. Primary/sole physical custody permits one parent to have the child, in his/her residence, the majority of the time. Joint physical custody allows both parents to have significant time with the child, in his/her residence. It is important to note, that the joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the time spent between the parents will be equal time.
In order to decide custody matters, courts consider what is in the best interest of the child. The court must consider the following sixteen (16) factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, when rendering its decision.
The judge’s order must reference each of the aforementioned factors. If there are ones that are inapplicable, the judge must specifically reference it and state why it does not apply.
Family Law Attorney Constance K. Nelson provides guidance to individuals seeking legal counsel in divorce, child custody and guardianship, alimony, and other family law matters.