Child Custody

This issue comes up during divorce and in other situations in which one or both parents aren’t able to properly care for a child. During a divorce, when both parents are capable of raising a child in a safe and healthy environment, each individual has an equal right to custody of the child or children. However, a custody arrangement must be made in order to ensure the child has a stable environment, or an environment that would be the most productive for them. Ultimately, if one parent is awarded custody she has the legal right to make any and all decisions for the child.

How is Custody Determined?

Custody is awarded to the parent or guardian that the court deems to be appropriate and whose situation would be the best for the child. The court considers several factors when determining who should have custody. Courts consider things like domestic violence, drug and alcohol use and/or abuse, lifestyle, criminal history, employment and finances, and overall health of each parent when determining placement for the child. In addition, the court often takes the wishes of the child and parents into account and the relationships between them when determining what would be best for the child.  An additional factor that would influence who is granted custody are the laws of the residing state. Each state handles child custody cases differently and the laws governing the process vary, for example some states automatically assume joint custody where as others grant custody exclusively to the mother. Despite the laws, the general objective of the court is to determine which parent would be able to provide the safest, healthiest and most stable home environment for the child.

Types of Custody-Exclusive

Exclusive custody or sole custody is where one parent is awarded custody, making them the only one responsible for the child and all decisions involved in the child’s upbringing. The parent that did not receive custody has visitation rights to the child, unless otherwise specified in the custody agreement.  Sometimes visitation requires the supervision of a third party in order to ensure the safety and well being of the child. There are some cases where the parent that was not awarded custody is completely prohibited from visiting the child. This is rare as it is believed to be better for the child to have some interaction with the non-custodial parent than none at all. These cases typically occur when visitation by the non-custodial parent would in some way be detrimental to the child, most often seen in situations where the child has been abused.

Types of Custody - Joint

Joint custody occurs when both parents remain equally involved and responsible for the decisions and upbringing of the child. This is the case when both parents are fully capable and prepared to continue raising the child. Typically, joint custody allows for the child to choose the home in which they feel the most comfortable and choose how often they would like to spend time with each parent. Either parent may choose to sue for sole custody but they must have proof that exclusive custody would be the best alternative.

Types of Custody - Third Party

Third party custody can be granted when the child is in a situation where neither parent is capable of properly caring for them. Typically this type of custody is given to a family member but sometimes an outside individual is required if there are no family members available to assume custody.

Types of Custody - Temporary

Temporary custody is just that, the child is placed in the custody of an individual during a tumultuous time for the parents. This is commonly seen when the parents are going through something like a separation or divorce where the child would have been uprooted had custody not been temporarily granted to one parent or the other. This type of custody serves to provide stability for the child for a necessary period of time until a more permanent arrangements can be made.

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