Divorce is complicated. Not only is the law extremely intricate, but the lives of each individual in a divorce are constantly changing. That makes a constant application of the law to the new facts necessary to properly understand your case. One of the most contested parts of a divorce is usually child custody. Child custody actually has two parts. Legal Custody and Physical Custody.
Legal custody is usually joint, meaning the parties share the legal custody of their child. Legal custody has to do with decision making and the sharing of information between parents. This means that in most cases, parents are required to work together to share information regarding their children and to work together to make major decision. Major decisions are decisions involving religion, education, and health. When parents cannot agree, the divorce decree should outline a process that the parents are required to follow before a final decision can be made regarding a major decision. Sometimes this requires consulting with teachers, principals, doctors, clergy, etc. It may also include going to mediation. Ultimately, the courts can get involved if parents are unable to make a decision, or one parent is acting irrationally.
Physical custody is the other form of custody. This can range from one parent having sole custody to both parents having equal time with the children. Sole custody is outlined by state law and generally means the non-custodial parents has every other weekend and one midweek evening every week. However, if there has been child abuse, a long absence of the non-custodial parent, or substance abuse a non-custodial parent’s parent-time can be further limited in the best interest of the child. For the most part, a joint arrangement of some kind is created. Joint custody starts with the non-custodial parent having more than 111 overnights in a given year. The maximum time a non-custodial parent would have in a given year is 182 overnights. This would be a 50/50 arrangement.
Negotiating and writing these types of custody orders is extremely complex and requires an experienced attorney to ensure that the language actually says what the parties intend for it to say. If you have questions about custody, please call us for a free consultation!