Child Custody

Child Custody

In the best interest of the child

Child custody issues generally arise in cases involving divorce, annulment, and other legal proceedings where children are involved.  The Court must make all decisions about custody in the best interests of the children. This almost always involves orders providing for frequent and continuing contact between the children and both parents.  In any situation pertaining to child custody rights, a number of questions are raised.

Legal and Physical Custody

How are child custody decisions made?

Courts strongly prefer that parents make child custody arrangements together in the best interest of the child, but will appoint a health professional to assist if need be. There are two kinds of custody to be determined: legal and physical. Legal custody claims the responsibility for making important decisions pertaining to the child’s life; where they go to school, psychological counseling, educational tutoring, medical decisions etc. Physcial custody refers to where the child spends most of their time.

Joint Custody

Parents can opt to share legal and/or physical custody, referred to as joint custody. In the case of joint legal custody they will be making decisions together. Often times, if during the marriage one parent was the primary caregiver and carried the majority of the decision-making responsibility, this will continue after the divorce, however, both parents will have a legal right to participate and it is up to them to discuss their process and make decisions together.

There is a strong preference amongst judges to order joint physical custody, guaranteeing that children will have regular contact with both parents. Shared physical custody means that the children have two parents involved in their lives and two stable homes.  This does not always mean that the parents will have an exact 50/50 split but it is often times very close.

Sole Custody
Sole Custody

Joint custody can potentially become a battleground as it only takes one parent to create ongoing conflict over every decision. Judges can find this sort of continual fighting very frustrating and if it persists for long enough they may determine to give one parent sole custody.  Sole custody means one parent has the sole right to make decisions about the children’s health, education and welfare.

Parents may determine to have joint physical custody and sole legal custody or any variation that best suits their situation.  

Child Custody Evaluations

When two parents cannot decide on a regular schedule, the court will appoint a social worker or psychologist to conduct an investigation and determine a schedule in the best interest of the child. They will meet with each party together and alone and make their recommendation to the court regarding custody and visitation.

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