Did you know that 40-50% of married couples in the United States divorce? That’s a huge percentage which means that there are a lot of families dealing with custody rights each year.
Legal proceedings can be complex. From non custodial parental rights to terminating parental rights, there’s so much at stake.
Read on for 5 things to know about child custody.
1. Child’s Best Interest
The most important thing to understand about child custody rights is that custody is awarded based on the child’s best interest.
The child’s best interest is decided by the judge or magistrate assigned to your case once there has been a hearing.
A child’s best interest is not necessarily what a parent believes is in the child’s best interest. Many people believe that a father’s custody rights are less important than the mother’s. But that is not true.
There are various factors in the statute that the court considers in custody cases. This includes the driving distance between both parents’ homes, the child’s age, school, among other factors.
2. Children Can’t Choose
A child does not get to choose when to see either parent. This is true even for teens.
A child can’t be a witness and can’t testify for or against a parent. Most courts will not even allow a child to be questioned by a judge.
If the child is mature enough, they can express their wishes for consideration. However, ultimately the decision rests with the court.
You should never include your child in parenting or custody decisions.
3. Child Custody Laws Vary by State
Another important thing to be aware of is that custody laws vary by state.
In order to defend your claim to child custody, you will need to research the laws of the state your child lives in.
This is a good time to bring in child custody lawyers that can help you navigate parental custodial rights.
4. There Is a Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody
Many parents are confused by the terms legal custody and physical custody.
Physical custody determines which parent the child lives with and who has control over the child. Usually, the other parent still has visitation rights unless the court rules against it for the safety of the child.
Legal custody is about who gets to make decisions about the child. Joint legal custody means that parents share responsibility for making decisions about the child. This has nothing to do with where the child lives.
5. Custody Is Always Renegotiable
Finally, keep in mind that no child custody arrangement is permanent or final.
Any decisions can be changed if circumstances change. For example, if a step-parent enters the picture, if work schedules or housing arrangements change, and so on.
Hang in There!
Thanks for reading. If you are facing child custody negotiations, know that you are not alone.
Though this process can be frustrating, try to focus on the wellbeing of your child. The best thing you can do is to keep the child’s best interests at the center of your custody negotiations.
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