When divorce or separation happens, child custody becomes the primary argument if children are involved. Every state differs in child custody laws and family laws. The only thing that remains intact is that the courts always look for what is best for the child. Getting a child custody lawyer is in the best interest of the parent who feels they are fit to have custody.
Custody without a Court Order
This option works best when two parents are civil and can agree on the child’s best care. Communication must be strong for both parties to work, but it does happen. The downside to this agreement is that if there is no court order, if one parent decides to violate the agreement, then the courts can do nothing to enforce the plan.
This is how it works when both parents agree. Once the divorce is final, the agreement kicks in. One parent may have them for a specific set of holidays, while the other will take another set. The child will stay with whichever parent they choose. Both will furnish the financial needs of the child. This includes:
- School supplies
- Health / Medical bills
- Educational needs
- Recreational needs
As long as someone is there to support the child and stay with them to raise them and bring them to school, the law will not step into the agreement. When these agreements are present, and no one violates them, everyone is happier, including the child, which is all that matters.
Court Orders and Joint Custody
If agreements cannot be made for whatever reason between the parents, the courts will review the case, and a court order will make the arrangements. The two options are joint custody and sole custody.
Joint custody says that both parents are in the child’s life, and both make the decisions for the child’s best interest. The process works the same as custody without a court order, except that child support is paid to the domicile parent by the custodial parent. The state will step in to enforce this law.
The other thing that differs from custody without a court order is that the child cannot choose which parent they want to live with, as the court will decide the final decision. If the child is under 12, the judge will review the fit parent and decide.
If the child is 12 or over, the courts will ask the child and weigh the options, but there is no guarantee they will side with the minor. The judge will have a specialist in the chambers with them when they speak with the child. From there, a decision is made, and everyone must follow the rules or file an appeal for further review.
Court Orders and Sole Custody
Sole custody is an option because the court decides the child will stay with one parent only. These are situations where drugs, alcohol, violence, physical, verbal, or sexual abuse is present from one of the parents. This type of living condition is not acceptable in the courts. The judge will ultimately side with the parent who is fit to be a parent to have sole custody.
If the parent awarded sole custody does not want the other parent around them or the child for safety reasons, they must file a restraining order. Should the parent who does not have sole custody wish to be a part of the child’s life, court orders are given for supervised visitation rights.
Before supervision rights are an option, the judge will order stipulations to follow. That person must undergo drug screenings, anger management, or parenting classes. Most times, if no restraining order is presented, they have supervised visits, and the case may be revisited within no less than six months for any changes. There is no doubt that the parent who is not the sole custody parent will have to pay child support and may also get arrested if the situation is too bad. The judge has the final say because every case is different.
Only under a court order is child support enforced. Child support laws are the strictest laws enforced across the country. It is the law for the custodial parent to pay the domicile parent-child support until the child reaches the age of 18.
The judge will look at the amount required by the state according to how much income is made through the custodial parent. Not everyone pays the same amount. For example, a person who makes about $1,500 a month may be required to pay $200 to $300 monthly. Someone who makes $4,000 a month may have to pay as much as $2,500 monthly. It depends on if there is alimony to pay and how much or any other expenses the court orders.
Those prices are not for everyone, but the idea is that the more money made, the more the state will take for child support. It is with the intent that the child is financially taken care of with their needs and some recreation. If the custodial parent fails to pay, they could forfeit their rights to see the child and spend time in jail.
What Factors Determine Child Custody?
After a divorce, information is gathered if an agreement is not made to determine child custody. The judge will review a checklist to see what is in the child’s best interest. Sometimes the result is not the best for the parent wishing to gain custody of their child. Legal representation will make things smoother, but there are no guarantees. Below is the checklist. If one is not up to par, a decision is made according to where the red flags pop up.
- The judge will look at joint custody first. If one of the parents is not fit to be a part of joint custody, the checklist ends here.
- The living conditions are investigated in each parent’s home.
- If one or both are willing to go through parenting classes
- Investigations occur to see if there are any immediate physical dangers to the child.
- They will investigate if there are any immediate emotional dangers to the child.
- The judge will then look at the best ability of which parent can meet the child’s education, special needs, and medical care.
- If the child is 12 or over, the judge will consider which parent the child wants to live with, but this is no guarantee.
- Finally, the judge will look at each parent’s financial and job status to see if work will take them away from caring for the child.