Lisa took the kids when she moved out. Nick tried to call the children several times, but Lisa refused to let Nick speak to them. Finally, he hired a lawyer. About two months later, the couple was in court. Nick was given visitation, and Lisa was given child support. Having some orders in place seemed to help the two of them fight less. Nick saw the children regularly and Lisa was able to afford an apartment. They were able to work together to be good parents.
You have been devoted to your children since the moment they were born. You've been there for every important milestone in their lives: their first birthday, their first lost tooth, their first day of school. You have protected them from the world; comforted them in their time of need. You have always shielded them from hurt- and now your life decisions are the source of their pain. The thought that you might not be there for their next "first" is awful.
The thought that a custody battle will cause them harm is unacceptable. You are worried for your children's future. You are worried about their emotional well-being. You may even be worried about their safety. The last thing you want is an ugly custody battle.
Everyone has advice, but is any of it true? You need the help of someone who understands your needs and the legal process. What is sole legal custody? Can you get it? Do you have a chance at joint custody? What does the term mean? Can your son or daughter choose where he or she wants to live? These are some of the questions running through your mind. Below are some of the important terms you will hear throughout your custody process:
• Physical Custody- Who the children will live with and the percentage of time the children will spend with each parent.
• Joint Custody- This can be used to describe either joint legal custody (the right to jointly make decisions about the children) or joint physical custody. Joint physical custody means both parents spend substantial time with the children. However, the term is most often used to describe parents having an equal timeshare with their children.
• Visitation- The actual schedule. A visitation order explicitly sets forth which days the children will spend with each parent. It also describes the time, place, and manner in which the exchanges will happen.
Courts will almost always award joint legal custody to the parents. This allows each parent to be involved in making decisions pertaining to the health care, education and day care for the children.
Here are some factors the court considers when awarding custody:
• Work Schedules: What is the schedule of each parent?
• School Schedules: Will visitation interrupt the children's schooling?
• Distance: How far apart do the parents live?
• Violence: Is there any history of domestic violence?
• Drug/Alcohol Abuse: Are there any substance abuse issues?
• Abuse/Neglect: Is one of the parents a danger to the children?
• Mental Illness: Are there any mental health issues?
• Living Quarters: Do the parents have room for the children?
• Alienation: Is one of the parents attempting to alienate the children against the other parent?
• Desire: Is there a particular schedule the parents are seeking?
• Wishes of the children: Are the children old enough to choose?
• Stability: Can each parent provide a stable home?
• Comfort level: Is one of the parents in a situation which makes it uncomfortable for the children to visit?
As you can see, the court looks at many factors when deciding custody. That is why it is always best to have a skilled attorney help you through the process.