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If you have recently parted ways from your partner, you are likely to enter a custody battle if you have shared children together. Of course, rarely does anyone enter a relationship with the intention of having it fall apart later on. Sometimes things just happen, and after a breakup it is important to understand the potential outcomes in a child custody battle. It can be resourceful to consult with a family law attorney in preparation for your child custody hearing. Parents must educate themselves on the various types of child custody, so they can walk into the hearing knowing exactly what their ideal parenting scenario looks like.
Q: What is the difference between sole and joint legal custody?
A: When a parent is awarded legal custody, they have the authority to make choices on behalf of their child. For example, that parent decides where the child will attend school, what religion he or she will grow up practicing, and anything related to medical care or health. Within legal custody, there are two options:
- Sole Legal Custody = one parent is awarded sole legal custody, and is the only parent who has the legal power to make decisions regarding religion, healthcare, and education.
- Joint Legal Custody = both parents are awarded shared legal custody, and share responsibility for making important decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing and growth.
Q: What options are there when it comes to physical custody?
A: Physical custody entails rules as to where the child or children are to live most of the time. Parents may be awarded either sole or joint physical custody. In sole custody, the child physically lives at one parent’s home. Then, the non-custodial parent receives visitation rights. An exception to this is if the other parent has a history of violence or addiction, then visitation privileges may not be granted by the family court judge.
Joint physical custody is otherwise referred to as “shared custody”, “dual residence”, or “shared parenting”. The child or children are to live with one parent for a designated part of the week or year, and then spend the rest of the time with the other parent. The time spent at each parent’s home is usually about equal. In more unique circumstances, the child or children may live at one primary home, and the parents switch in and out of that location on a regular schedule. While this arrangement tends to be the most beneficial and offers home stability to the children, this means parents must occupy another residence too.
Q: What will be the judge’s biggest concern during the child custody hearing?
A: During the hearing, the judge is likely to be primarily focused on what is in the best interest of your child or children. A judge may ask several questions to each parent, to get a feel of their financial status and whether they have the time to dedicate to parenting. Ideally, a judge often wants to see that the parents share legal and physical custody, but this is only possible if both parents are willing to cooperative with the other.