What are the different types of child custody?
Child Custody Lawyer Rockville, MD
Family law is a very complex and far-reaching area of the law. When it comes to the child custody aspect of family law, there are different types of custody. And what kind of custody determination is made can affect the lives of whole families for years to come.
Types of Child Custody
There are two primary types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Typically, one parent will be granted physical custody. This parent may then be required to share legal custody with the non-custodial parent.
► Physical custody refers to who a child lives with. Children live on a regular basis with the parent who has physical custody. Physical custody can be shared by both parents or granted to only one. When one parent has been awarded physical custody, the non-custodial parent may be granted visitation rights according to a schedule of specific dates and times. There may be an exception to visitation rights when the non-custodial parent has been accused of abuse. Stepparents and grandparents may also be granted visitation rights. How custody is ordered when a divorce is finalized can affect families later on when life circumstances change.
► Legal custody refers to who has the responsibility to make legal decisions on matters that impact the child’s life, such as where they get educated, what religious instruction they receive, what their upbringing is like, whether they need psychological counseling, and when they need medical care. During your marriage, you and your partner likely made these decisions together, and when you get a divorce, judges often want to keep it that way if at all possible.
In most states, the default preference is for parents to share legal custody and continue to share in decision-making for their children. This is joint legal custody, and it can take many forms. Joint legal custody can become an area of conflict for parents who can’t agree on things. It only takes one uncooperative parent to create an ongoing dispute over legal custody matters, and it can make life miserable for everyone involved. If parents continually fight over every question related to their kids, the judge might grant one parent sole legal custody. A judge might also give sole legal custody if one parent:
- Lives a substantial distance away
- Is neglectful or abusive
- The parent isn’t involved in the child’s day-to-day life and doesn’t spend time with him or her
When one parent has been awarded physical custody, the non-custodial parent may be granted visitation rights. These rights are often according to a schedule of specific dates and times. The exception to visitation rights may be when the non-custodial parent has been accused of abuse. If this is true, a neutral third party may be required to oversee all visitation. Grandparents and stepparents may also be granted visitation rights.
► Joint custody. In joint custody, a child shares equal amounts of time with both parents. Joint custody is usually successful only if both parents are cooperative, live near one another, and can make the appropriate decisions for the child.
► Split custody is another custody option that involves two or multiple children. It applies when one parent has custody of at least one child, and the other parent has custody of at least one child. Generally, courts don’t favor splitting up the children.
► Sole custody. A parent with sole custody has physical and legal custody over the child. This means he or she will have the exclusive right to make all of the decisions for the care of the child. Sole custody is not commonly granted, and usually only done when the other parent is unfit, incapable of having the responsibility of the child, or has died. In a sole custody situation, the non-custodial parent will not have any physical or legal custodian rights. However, he or she may be entitled to some visitation with the child. Usually, these visitation periods are supervised, especially when child abuse or domestic violence is a factor.
When the Parents Are Not Married
Depending on the state, when the parents are not legally married, there is a high chance that the mother will be given sole physical custody unless the father has filed a motion for physical custody. In general, an unwed father will have a hard time getting the sole physical custody of a child if the mother is deemed to be a good parent. If the children are old enough (usually 10-13 years), the court may consider their preference.
Changing the Child Custody Agreement
A child custody agreement can be disputed and modified on a case by case basis, and when approved by the court. If you wish to establish or pursue child custody, contact an experienced child support and child custody lawyer for more information.
It’s essential to have a child support lawyer Rockville MD on your side when you’re navigating the kind of nuanced and ever-changing matters involved in family law, particularly child custody and child support. At the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright, we will work toward a timely solution that is best for your family and your child.