Child Custody FAQ’s

What is legal custody?

Legal custody is the right to make decisions on behalf of your child. This includes making decisions on health care, education, religion, and more. Legal custody can be joint even if physical custody is not.

What is physical custody?

Physical custody determines the actual time a parent spends with his/her child. You don’t have to split your child’s time between two homes exactly 50-50 in order to have joint physical custody; you just have to establish a set schedule between the parents.

How is custody determined?

When parents can work together amicably, they can make their own decisions regarding legal and physical custody of their children. However, when custody is contested, the court will make the decision based on what is in the child’s best interests. The court will consider the child’s age, health, relationships with each parent, ties to the local community, and other factors.

Can children choose which parent they want to live with?

If you are able to make your own custody agreement with your co-parent, you can certainly choose to let your children decide where they want to live. If your case has to go to court, children are allowed to testify and state their preference and the judge will consider this in their decision depending on their age and ability to testify.

What is child custody mediation?

Child custody mediation is a process that every family must participate in before their court date. The mediation process provides an opportunity for parents to agree on their own custody and visitation arrangements with the assistance of a neutral third party mediator who will help keep the discussion calm and civil. If mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to court and custody will be decided by a judge.

How does deployment affect custody for military parents?

A military parent who has joint custody of a child will not automatically lose it just because they have to go overseas for deployment. Typically, it is best to make a temporary modification to the custody agreement and give the other parent sole physical custody while the service member is deployed.

Can custody and visitation orders be changed?

Yes. Child custody and visitation orders are designed to promote the best interests of the child. As this changes over time, the orders can be updated accordingly. Your attorney can help you file a petition for the necessary modifications.

What if the custodial parent wants to move away?

If the custodial parent wants to relocate with their child, they need to notify their co-parent at least 45 days before the move so that any necessary modifications can be made to the custody and visitation agreements. The court will consider whether it is in the child’s best interests to make the move or remain with the other parent.

How do child abuse allegations affect custody and visitation?

Child abuse allegations are very serious and there will be a thorough investigation before a parent’s custody or visitation rights are curtailed. You can request an investigation be conducted if you believe your child is being abused or if their safety and well-being is in danger. If substantial independent corroboration of abuse is found, the custody and visitation agreements can be modified as needed to protect the best interests of the child.