Child custody can be a challenging experience during divorce, one that can cause many emotional struggles for many people. Therefore, it is vital to understand the different arrangements you may find and how courts decide them. If you find yourself confused or struggling with this information, get help from a Cape Girardeau child custody lawyer who understands your case.
One-Parent Primary Physical Custody
Many child custody arrangements give one parent primary or sole physical custody of a child. This arrangement means that a child stays with that parent permanently. Visitation rights are usually minimal and may require both parents to be together in the room at the same time. Some sole-custody situations may have no visitation rights for the non-custodial parent. Typically, this option is decided upon for several reasons, including:
- Financial Support — The custodial parent is likely to have a better job and a more financially secure situation, making it easier for them to provide the care needed for a child’s development.
- Emotional Stability — When one home is likely to cause emotional troubles for a child, courts may place them in the other home on a permanent basis for better support.
- Abuse Problems — If the non-custodial parent is abusive or neglectful to their child, custody may be taken from them and given to the other parents instead.
- Legal Issues — Instances of one parent abusing the law or behaving in illegal ways may cause custody to go to the other parent, especially if the other is in prison for their offenses.
- Abandonment Concerns — Fears that one parent may abandon the child (or if the parent voluntarily gives up their custody) may cause one parent to have sole physical custody of their child.
In some cases, the non-custodial parent may still pay support to the custodial parents, though the amount may vary based on their financial situation and many other factors. Conversely, the non-custodial parent may pay nothing in different situations, though this may vary depending on the case. Typically, the custodial parent is expected to take primary financial care of the child.
Split Physical Custody Arrangements
Most divorce cases attempt to split custody between the parents, allowing the children to spend time with both based on a specific schedule. In these cases, the parents with split custody typically must live within a detailed and reasonable distance from each other. For example, some states require them to live within 100 miles of each other to make transportation and custody easier to handle.
Other courts may demand that the parents live within the same school district or at least have the capacity to take that child consistently to the same school. Again, stability is critical in these situations, and courts want a child to have a consistent and high-quality education. However, this demand may vary depending on the visitation schedule decided upon by the parents. Just a few of the most common split custody options include:
- Even Split — In these types of custody arrangements, parents split custody of their children between weeks. So one parent would have a child for a week, while the other would have them the next. Often, these arrangements require the parents to maintain a consistent school environment for a child.
- Uneven Split — In these arrangements, a child may spend most of their time with one parent and visit their other parent at different times. For instance, a mother may keep the children during the school year and send them to the other parent during the summer or on holidays and other vacations.
- Weekend Visits — In more extreme cases, one parent may only see their child during the weekend, while the other parent has them during the week. Sometimes, alternative weekends may be preferred in these cases, depending on the parents and their needs and understanding.
During a divorce case, parents, lawyers, and the deciding court must create a visitation schedule that makes sense and works for everyone’s needs. However, the court will always side with the child’s needs before their parents’ wants, even if they conflict with parental needs. Therefore, parents must understand what kind of factors courts consider when deciding custody cases.
How Courts Decide on Custody
Child support is always decided by judges, who take testimony from the court’s friends, both parents, and the child to figure out what will work best. They weigh all the evidence presented to them and decide based on what will help the child. The factors that they consider vary heavily on the circumstances of the case and can be pretty challenging. They include:
- Parental Wants and Desires — Though the judge doesn’t choose decisions to benefit the parents solely, they listen to what each says and consider their needs and desires.
- Past Parental Behavior — Testimony from parents, witnesses, and friends of the court help to gauge how parents behaved in the past and how this could affect a child’s well-being.
- The Child’s Wants and Desires — Judges listen to what the child says, take their testimony seriously, and use this information to help make a better decision for a child’s needs.
- The Judge’s Perception — Judges ultimately look at each parents’ financial situation, past behaviors, and other mitigating factors to decide on a custody arrangement.
In cases where parents decide on a custody arrangement and aren’t fighting each other, this process is often skipped, and the judge signs a consent form if they believe that this arrangement is the best option. Extended custody hearings typically only occur if parents cannot agree on these arrangements, and it is necessary to find an alternative option.
Help is a Wise Choice
If you’re in a divorce situation and aren’t sure where your custody battle will end, it is crucial to reach out to a custody lawyer who can help. They will sort through the challenges inherent in this process and give you the best chance of creating a schedule that works the best for your child’s needs.