Child custody is the most hotly contested issue in a divorce case. Many people feel that they are the proper party to have the sole care, custody, and control of the minor children, even though it really might be in the best interest of the minor children that they be with the other party. For example, there are many men who come to me and say they want to have custody of their child. I then inquire as to what they do for a living, how much time would be available for the child, do they have any experience in this, have they been a hands-on father, and more likely than not, I receive answers that basically lead me to believe that this person is not a fit and proper person over the other spouse to have the care, custody, and control. The person simply wants to fight for something, or the person simply is on the mistaken belief that they can do just the same as a stay-at-home mom.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Children require a lot of work, a lot of attention, a lot of dedication. If the husband, in my example, is working 50 or 60 hours a week, how can he possibly provide the proper care for that child without additional help? By the same token, there are a lot of women who believe that they have raised the children, up until the date of divorce, and therefore they don’t have to cooperate or consult with the father over health, education, religious decisions.
What these parties fail to realize is that the best interest of the child standard is what applies, and isn’t it in the best interest of the child that both parties have an active role in the child’s
life? Isn’t that what you really want, as a spouse, that your child is going to be well taken care of, and that your child is going to feel comfortable around both spouses? Divorce is devastating enough on a family and on the parties. Why make it worse than it has to be on your child, who did nothing to cause the problem?
In a custody battle, once the court is aware that there may be a disagreement, the court will order mediation. Mediation is a great opportunity for both spouses to sit down with a court-ordered mediator and learn, basically, what custody is all about. Many people come to me and
they don’t understand that custody does not mean whoever gets custody, the other has no rights. Other times people feel like if they have joint custody, then the other party is going to be
having too much of a say, and they’re going to have to dictate or request everything that goes through the other spouse.
In reality, there is joint custody for decision-making and then there is physical custody, where the child lives on a day-to-day basis. In my experience, the best form of custody is where both parties can cooperate together for the best interest of the child, to be involved in the child’s life, and have an input over the health, education, religious, and extracurricular activities of the
child. It is only in rare circumstances, in my opinion, where the parties simply cannot get along to the point where they can’t even cooperate or effectively co-parent for the minor child.
Whoever has physical custody of the minor child, the non-custodial parent is going to have reasonable visitation with the minor child, so it’s not like whoever has custody has full control and the other party has nothing. There is always going to be something for both parties, although it might not be joint decision-making; the non-custodial party will have support.
Consult a local family law and divorce attorney to assist you in this difficult process, especially if custody is going to be a contested issue.