The journey through child custody laws can often seem daunting. The stakes are high when involving the well-being of your child. When a family is divided, the child's best interests should be the focus. Yet, the process can be fraught with legal jargon and complicated court forms. That is why it can be beneficial for those involved in child custody cases to hire a qualified child custody attorney, particularly if the child's other parent also has legal representation.
Here, FindLaw explains how a lawyer can help you achieve your custody or visitation goals. You can also access a directory of custody and visitation attorneys in your state, county, city, or metropolitan area. Additionally, you will find general information to help you get the most out of using an attorney. You can get details on how fee agreements work, how to calculate legal fees, and other matters related to hiring lawyers.
Understanding Child Custody
In a child custody case, there are two primary considerations: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody pertains to where the child lives primarily. Physical custody refers to parenting time. Legal custody relates to who makes important decisions about the child's education, health care, and overall well-being.
In cases where domestic violence or substance abuse is present, the child's safety becomes the top priority. Courts will take any evidence of violence or abuse seriously. It could lead to the abusive parent losing their parental rights, or their custody rights could be severely limited. A parent without physical custody is the “non-custodial parent." The child's parent with sole custody will be the “custodial parent."
If you are a non-custodial parent, it doesn't mean you're deprived of all parental rights. You may not have physical custody, but you might share joint legal custody with your child's other parent. This allows you both to have input into decision-making regarding your child's life.
Child support is a financial obligation paid by the non-custodial parent to the parent with physical custody. A child support order formalizes the amount of child support, which is usually determined by child support guidelines. These guidelines ensure the child receives adequate financial support to maintain their quality of life.
Using an Attorney for Custody or Visitation: Overview
Child custody is almost always a high-stakes process involving the welfare and living arrangements of one's own children. Emotions typically run high during these proceedings, although the interpretation of specific laws determines the actual decisions and eventual court order. Therefore, it usually makes sense to hire a child custody attorney (or divorce lawyer) who can remain calm and focused on the details of your case. If the other party has legal representation, you're at a disadvantage if you decide to go without a lawyer.
Common Legal Issues Pertaining to Custody Cases
There are certain issues that custody cases always address. Primarily, they address where the child will live and what the visitation schedule will entail. Both parents usually retain legal custody of the child in the best interest of the child. However, courts will consider different factors and, depending on those factors, might decide on a different timesharing parenting schedule.
To name a few, other legal issues that an attorney can help address include:
- Tax implications of a custody order
- Determining which court has jurisdiction over the case
- Visitation rights of grandparents
Every case is at least a little unique, often requiring the experienced hand of a lawyer.
Legal Fees, Legal Costs, and Fee Agreements
Regardless of the legal issue at hand, you want to make sure you fully understand the fee agreement and how your attorney will charge for his or her services. The arrangement determines legal fees, so make sure you know how it will ultimately affect your pocketbook before you agree. Your attorney may have a fixed hourly fee, a contingency fee, a flat fee for the entire process, or some other arrangement.
In addition, you will be billed for various legal costs. These are the extra things an attorney pays for in the course of your case. This includes costs such as:
- Paralegal time
- Postal charges
- Travel expenses
- Court reporter costs
Such costs should be itemized on your bill.
Find the Right Attorney for Your Child Custody Case
Child custody can be a complicated issue, especially when emotions are already high during a divorce. Family court proceedings can be complex and intimidating. Several resources, such as legal aid and legal services, can guide you through this difficult time. These organizations often provide free or low-cost assistance, from offering legal information to helping fill out court forms.
Each state has its own child custody laws. These can affect how the court decides custody. A well-versed attorney can help provide valuable legal advice to help you navigate this area of the law. They can help you form a custody arrangement and parenting plan. They will help you get a child custody order or child support order from the court. Remember, the family court is ultimately concerned with the best interests of the minor child.
Get started by speaking to an experienced family law attorney today.
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