014 – Defining Legal Custody of your Children
This time of year we all think about our family a little more and I get a lot of questions about the different types of custody arrangements. If you are facing divorce or separation and you have children involved, this episode will give you some insight into the three main types of custody arrangements and what they really mean. On this episode we discuss sole custody, joint custody, and split custody and the descriptions, pros, and cons of each
When awarding custody in a separation, divorce or custody modification case, family courts typically use the “best interest of the child” standard for determining who should have primary custody and what the visitation schedule should look like. The “best interest of the child” standard is pretty subjective for the judge; however, state common law will provide some brackets for what that actually means. The unfortunate thing is that description and definition of what is the best interest is somewhat different from state to state.
Sole custody is the traditional custody award in a separation or divorce case. For many years, family courts took the position that joint custody of children was not in their best interest and one parent should be awarded custody and the other time with the children. Joint custody has made a resurgence recently and many states are attempting to make this a default custody type. There are situations where joint custody simply won’t work. In the this episode we get into a discussion about how joint custody is very good for parenting situations where both parents can communicate and get along with one another – at least as it relates to the kids. In a situation where the parents are unable to work together in the slightest, then joint custody is not going to be favored and sole custody will be the solution for the judge.
The main difference between sole and joint custody will come down to decision making for the children. In evaluating any custody proposal, I encourage clients and prospects to consider two main items: (1) responsibility and decision-making for the children, and (2) time with the children. Joint custody will have some sort of sharing of decision-making for the children, even though one parent may have the final decision-making authority if they reach an impasse whereas the parent with sole custody will be able to make all decisions without seeking input from the other parent. In either situation, the parties can agree to a specific placement schedule with the children or the court can set the visitation schedule. One common myth is that joint custody means the parents have equal time with the children.
The final topic we discuss is the concept of split custody. Split custody can be defined by the children or by the calendar. The first method (by the children) would be in situations where there are two children. Let’s say a son and daughter. A split custody arrangement would be where the father has sole custody of one child and the mother has sole custody of the other child. The calendar method of split custody has nothing to do with the number of children. This method of split custody will specify certain months of the year where dad has sole custody and the other months where mom has sole custody. An example of this would be that mom will have sole custody of the children from September through May (the school year), but dad will have sole custody for the months of June – August (the summer vacation).
More questions about child custody or visitation issues? Send them directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or head over to the connect page and submit the contact form there. You can also connect with us on Facebook. Click like in the sidebar on the right and post your comment or question on the latest episode post.