Divorce is never easy and when children are involved, it can be even more difficult. If you are going through a divorce with minor children, you may be confused about your rights and worried about how custody will be handled. Even in an amicable divorce, it is important to understand the basics of child custody so that you are prepared when you talk to an attorney or are before the judge who will make decisions regarding the custody of your child. Although child custody varies from state-to-state, there are a few basic principles that you need to know that apply to almost all states.
Types Of Child Custody
There are four basic types of child custody. A parent awarded physical custody has the child living with them. A judge may order joint physical custody if the child will live significantly with both parents, which works well when parents live physically close to each other. When the child lives primarily with one parent, that parent is known as the custodial parent. Legal custody means that the parent makes decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as religion, schooling and medical care without consulting with the other parent. In some cases, one parent may be given sole custody of the child, often when the other parent is deemed unfit. Today, however, most parents are awarded joint custody in which they share in the decision-making, physical control and custody of the children. When working out custody agreements, it is a good idea to work with a legal professional like those at The Law Offices of Lisa E. Frazer, LLC.
Biological parents have the right to visitation with their children regardless of custody. Courts use the best interest of the child to determine visitation, even if the parents are not married. Once paternity is established, both the father and mother have equal rights to visitation with their child. If parents cannot agree to visitation, a court will order in the best interest of the child what visitation the non-custodial parent should receive. This could mean an every-other-weekend situation or a judge could order that a child live with one parent one week and the other another week if the parents live close to each other. If the court orders visitation, only the court can change the agreement. If the custodial parent interferes with visitation, the non-custodial parent can petition the court to force visitation. In cases of domestic abuse, alcoholism, or drug abuse, it is possible that visitation will not be ordered or that the non-custodial parent submit to supervised visits.
Child Support And Visitation Not Related
Most states use a formula to determine the amount of child support that must be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. Child support is designed to support the children when one parent does not make as much money as the other. Often, divorced parents consider child support and visitation to be the same thing. The fact is the two are not connected at all. Even if the parent ordered to pay child support does not pay, they are still entitled to visitation. The custodial parent can be held in contempt if they deny visitation due to child support arrears.
In some states, grandparents of divorced parents may be awarded visitation of minor children. This may occur when grandparents and parents have a disagreement. In some cases, parents may decide to withhold visits with the grandchildren due to the disagreement. In some states, many grandparent visitation rules have been eliminated due to violations of federal law while others have strict rules on what rights grandparents have. In cases where one or both parents of the child are deceased or a parent has abandoned a child, grandparents may be able to apply for visitation rights in order to have a relationship with the child. Because each state has different regulations, grandparents should seek legal advice before attempting to get visitation with grandchildren.
These are just a few factors that must be addressed in a divorce or when an unmarried couple with minor children separate. Always, when minor children are involved, it is critical to seek legal advice to be sure the best interest of the child and the parents are considered.
Author Bio: Emma Sturgis is a freelance writer living in Boston, MA. When not writing, she enjoys reading and indoor rock climbing. Find her on Google +