The decision to separate or divorce is never easy. It can become more complicated when children are involved. One of the key issues in a divorce, for parents, is child custody. In most cases, joint custody will be considered in the child's best interests. Joint custody is a shared parenting arrangement that involves both parents in their child's upbringing.
This article discusses joint custody. It also discusses the standard that courts consider when determining custody.
What Is Joint Custody?
Joint custody is an arrangement where both parents are responsible for raising their child after a divorce or separation. This means the child spends significant time with each parent (joint physical custody). Both parents decide on important matters like education, healthcare, and religious upbringing (joint legal custody).
Courts can award either joint physical custody or joint legal custody, or both, depending on the circumstances of the case. Joint custody is often seen as a way to provide the child with a stable and supportive environment. However, joint custody arrangements may require a high level of communication and cooperation between parents. This can be challenging for some parents.
Joint custody can offer several benefits for children of separated or divorced parents. Minor children can maintain ongoing relationships with both parents. Joint custody can also provide a sense of stability for the child and reduce the burden placed on a single parent.
Best Interest of the Child Standard
In any child custody case, the court will use the best interest of the child standard to determine child custody. This standard requires the court to decide what is best for the child's well-being. The court will consider many factors when deciding the custody of the child. These factors may include the child's age, physical and emotional needs, and relationship with each parent.
In most cases, the court strives to award joint custody to the parents. This allows the child to maintain a strong relationship with both parents, which is usually in the child's best interests. However, the court may deem one parent “unfit" or unable to provide a safe and supportive environment for the child. If this is the case, the court could rule against joint custody. This may happen if a parent is involved in domestic violence, child abuse, or substance abuse.
What Happens If a Parent is “Unfit?"
If a court determines that a parent is unfit, they may lose custody of their child. The court may order that the unfit parent pay child support to the other parent to contribute to the child's upbringing. The unfit parent may also lose the right to make major decisions concerning the child's upbringing. Instead, the court may award the other parent with sole legal custody. Sole legal custody will give them unilateral decision-making authority. The court may also grant the custodial parent with sole physical custody, where the child will primarily live with them. They will be the primary caregiver or have primary physical custody of the child.
The court may then establish a custody order or parenting plan. The order will outline the terms of the custody agreement. This can include parenting time arrangements for co-parents and visitation rights for the non-custodial parent. In some cases, the court may grant a family member (e.g., a grandparent) or a guardian custody of the child. A court order addressing custody is a legally binding document. It's important that both parents adhere to its terms.
Get Professional Legal Help With Your Child Custody Dispute
If you're facing a legal battle over child custody, it's helpful to have a qualified lawyer representing and advising you. A family law lawyer can help you obtain the best possible result for you and your child. They can provide valuable legal advice about your parental rights and advise you on the different types of custody. They can also advocate for you in family court.
Get a head start today by contacting a child custody attorney near you.