How to Choose the Right Child Custody Lawyer
There are several child custody lawyers practicing across the U.S., but not all of them possess the same level of expertise or skills that are required to successfully resolve a custodial dispute. Choosing the wrong legal counsel can have a disastrous effect on a case and the future of your children. To prevent an unfavorable outcome, thoroughly review the credentials of each child custody lawyer you are considering.
What Is Child Custody?
In a nutshell, child custody is defined as the overall parenting of a minor child. State laws usually dictate that biological parents are in charge of making decisions regarding the well-being of their children, such as education, health care, religious association, residence, etc. While parents are not legally obligated to pursue the right to make these decisions if they are listed on the children’s birth certificate, family courts can determine custody if the parents get divorced, or if the parents are deemed unfit to make sound decisions.
Currently, child custody laws usually relate to the following questions:
- Which parent had sole, legal, or physical custody?
- Who was the primary and secondary residential parent?
- Which parent acted in the best interests of the child?
What Are the Different Types of Child Custody?
The main types of child custody are:
- Joint Custody
For parents that do not live together, there is joint custody. This means that both parents share all of the decision-making duties, and/or physical custody of their children. Parents can have joint custody if they are no longer living together, separated, or divorced. Joint custody can be awarded in the form of joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or joint legal AND physical custody.
If parents are awarded joint custody, they work out an arrangement that works with both of their and the child’s schedule. However, if they cannot agree on an arrangement, then a lawyer will guide you through the process of having the court determine an arrangement on your behalf. If this is the case, then common scenarios include either the children spending certain days and holiday with one parent, or alternating months.
Nowadays, there is even an arrangement that has the children stay in the family home so as to create and foster a stable home environment, while the parents take turns moving in and out.
- Legal Custody
The right and responsibility of having to make the decisions regarding how the child is raised is what legal custody means. If a parent has legal custody, then they are allowed to make decisions regarding the child’s education, health care, and religious affiliation. It is not uncommon for many states to award joint legal custody to both parents, which allows them both to share the responsibility of making decisions for their children together.
If one parent fails to include the other when making decisions regarding their children when they share joint legal custody, then the parent can go back to court and ask the judge to enforce the custody agreement.
If the circumstances surrounding the two parents make it difficult to cooperate with shared legal custody, then your lawyer can ask the court for sole legal custody. Since most states prefer parents to share legal custody, your attorney will need to prove to the family court judge that shared legal custody is not in the best interests of the child.
- Physical Custody
This essentially means that a parent has the right to have a child live with them. If the child spends a lot of time with both respective parents, then it is not uncommon for the court to award joint physical custody; this works best in situations where the parents live close to each other because it reduces the amount of stress on the kids while still allowing them to maintain a somewhat normal and structured schedule.
While the child will generally live with one parent and have visitation with the other, the parent with whom the child lives with primarily usually has primary physical or sole custody, and the other parent has the right to parenting time with them.
- Sole Custody
It is possible for one parent to have either sole physical custody or sole legal custody of a child. This is most common if one parent is deemed by the court to be an unfit parent for reasons such as alcoholism, child abuse allegations, drug addiction, neglect, etc.
States are currently working toward awarding less parents sole custody and more joint custody so that both parents can stay in the child’s life. Even if the court does award physical custody to one parent, it is not uncommon for both parents to share joint legal custody, with the other parent on a liberal visitation schedule.
While many divorcing couples don’t get along, it is best to only seek sole custody of your children if your spouse poses a legitimate danger to their well-being.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Joint Custody?
Pros of joint custody include:
- Ensures that the children maintain contact and a relationship with both parents.
- Spreads out parenting responsibilities to both parents.
Cons of joint custody include:
- Can cause issues and tension between the parents, thus negatively affecting their child.
- Creates an unstable environment as children constantly have to be moved around.
- Keeping two separate homes for the children can get expensive.
How Do I Know I Need to Hire a Child Custody Attorney?
For whatever reasons bring about needing to establish child custody, whether it be divorce or an unfit parent, you may feel like you already have enough on your plate without having to worry about bringing a child custody lawyer into the mix. However, an experienced attorney can help alleviate much of your stress and make the legal process go much more smoothly than if you had tried to go it alone.
Some signs that it may be time to hire a child custody lawyer include:
- If either of you have moved residences or remarried since the child custody case began.
- The court is requiring you to enroll in treatment, such as anger management classes, parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, etc.
- You live in a different state or country than your ex.
- Your children are in danger.
- Your ex has an attorney, or if your ex is trying to keep you from seeing your kids.
To learn more about how a lawyer can help you, contact USAttorneys.com today.