Your children should always be your number one priority when you are going through a divorce or separation. Child custody arrangement are a major concern in these cases, primarily because you want to make the decision in the child, or children’s best interest. Now, the legal definition of custody is different from what you might think it means. Many people think a parent who has a child for the longer periods of time has sole custody over the child and the other parent is thought to only have weekend and holiday visits with their children. However, this is not always the case. There are three common custody options:
- Physical Custody: Someone who has physical custody of their child provides them with their primary place to live. When the time is unevenly split, one parent is labelled “primary” and the other “secondary,” Joint custody does not mean a couple splits their time exactly 50- 50 with their child, particularly if they are in school. The best interest of the child is always at the forefront of these custody agreements, so a 50-50 split is not usually the best arrangement, but it is not impossible.
- Legal Custody: The parent who has legal custody decides who gets to make important decisions for the child. Although physical and legal custody sound intertwined, the two can be exclusive.
- Sole Custody: All of your custodial rights belong to one parent and they make all the decisions for the child. This is infrequent, but it can be the best option if the other parent is unfit to care for the child. One such exception can be if your former spouse has substance abuse issues or have mistreated or abused your child; then sole custody would be the obvious option.
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If it is in the best interest of the child and doesn’t present any danger, then the court prefers that the child maintain a healthy relationship requiring the involvement of both parents. Sometimes a court will grant joint legal custody even in cases where one parent has sole physical custody. This could also result in a pretty liberal visitation schedule. Joint legal custody allows both parents to make major decisions for the well-being of their child together despite the physical custody arrangement. Schooling, medical matters and religious involvement are aspects of your child’s life that you must compromise on together. If you are unsure, consult a family lawyer sooner than later. They can help guide you through a fairly difficult process and manage all your priorities while you adjust to this new chapter. Further, they will help you determine a fair and optimum custody agreement for your child. A Scottsdale guardianship lawyer and custody attorney can help with any questions.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for their insight into child custody.