The Different Types of Child Custody
At the time of separation, the temporary custody arrangements might very well be assumed by the two parents. However, it is essential that the issues related are thoroughly discussed in order to successfully reach a binding and lasting mutual agreement.
Residency, legal guardianship, and visitation serve as the foundation issues on which the legal and physical custody rights are awarded. The law typically does not play a role in temporary custody arrangements, interceding only when one spouse is deemed unsuitable, usually on grounds of alcoholism or abusiveness, and only after the respective attorney files a petition with the court. In other words, it is usually in the interest of common good to come to a satisfactory agreement, to cooperate with the estranged spouse, and to provide convenient visitation.
It should not be taken for granted that the final legal custody arrangements awarded by the court will be the same as the temporary custody arrangements.
To ensure the best possible outcome for the child, divorce counseling for the entire family is highly recommended. Counseling helps prevent a child from becoming a manipulative pawn or the inappropriate subject and/or source of any arguments. Most often a child views the parents as equals, and the change in relationships as a result of the divorce process can be emotionally devastating. Remember, the child is the most vulnerable person in the divorce action, and unfortunately, the legal system does not completely protect this precious commodity.
Legal Custody: awards a parent or both parents the right to make legal decisions for the child regarding education, health care, religion, and his or her general welfare.
Currently, in most states, the courts will favor joint legal custody in situations where the parents have the ability to cooperate with one another in terms of making decisions that are in "the best interest of the child." Many divorcing parents do work very hard towards achieving this goal. Joint custody is definitely not for everyone and can only come about as a result of rational decision-making process focused on the past roles and future expectations of the parents.
- Sole Legal Custody: when only one parent holds the right to make legal decisions for the child regarding education, health care, religion, and his or her general welfare.
- Joint Legal Custody: when both parents hold the right to make legal decisions for the child regarding education, health care, religion, and his or her general welfare, without either parent having superior rights. The most common form of joint legal custody designates one parent as having primary residential (i.e., physical) custody.
Physical Custody: defines and declares the child's residency.
- Sole Physical Custody: when the child lives with one parent and the other has specific visitation rights.
- Joint Physical Custody: when a child is able to reside with each parent for a substantial amount of time during the course of a calendar year. The arrangement does not have to be split 50-50, but it does require some consistent plan or schedule. This type of custody arrangement is not very common, for it is rare when this type of arrangement is found to be best for a child.
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