Child custody has a dramatic effect on everyone involved, children, dad, mom, and other family members. When a marriage is ending, emotions typically run high, but custody of the children garner the most serious emotional reactions. Nearly all parents regard their children as the most important part of their lives. In years past, divorce courts and family law judges have favored granting sole custody of younger children to the mother and visitation rights to the father. However, joint custody is increasingly favored by the courts and parents alike.
The court may award joint (shared) custody when parents demonstrate the ability to work together for the sake of the children. In shared custody agreements, even though they are not still together, parents share equal responsibility for the children. This arrangement is divided into two categories: legal custody and physical custody.
Shared legal custody requires parents to make important decisions about their children’s upbringing together. Parents must reach an agreement about topics such as schooling, religion, discipline, dating, medical care, and dental care, to name just a few. If either parent excludes the other from important decisions, the other can ask the court to enforce the custody agreement.
When parents have joint physical custody, the children spend equal time with each parent, they alternate living with each parent. This works best when the parents live in reasonably close proximity of each other. When this arrangement can be worked out amicably, it allows the children to maintain a relatively normal routine. When the parents have been granted shared physical custody, typically, the court will review and approve a schedule designating when the children will be with each parent.
A common variation of shared legal and physical custody is for one parent to have sole physical custody while they share legal custody. In some circumstances, though less often, one parent has legal custody while physical custody is shared. If parents are unable to reach an agreement on shared custody, the court will determine each parent’s custodial rights. This decision will be based on the court’s perception of what is in the best interests of the children.
It is in the best interests of everyone when parents can reach an agreement rather than it evolving into a custody battle. When the situation erodes into a war, there are no winners, only losers, and the children lose the most. An experienced family law attorney, such as those at David M. Siegel and Associates can guide you through this difficult and complex process that is so crucial to the wellbeing of your children. Call (847) 520-8100 to schedule a consultation.