In custody, the child’s best interests reign supreme.
We all want what is best for our children. A divorce can be emotionally devastating to a child, so their best interests must always be put first in a court of law. This can often cause a great deal of conflict when one parent is at odds with the other over what is best for their child.
What Types of Child Custody Are There?
There are two kinds of child custody: Physical Custody and Legal Custody.
Physical custody is where the child will primarily reside and with which parent, whereas legal custody is the legal right for a parent to make decisions for the child, including all medical, religious, and education decisions. The custody of the child can play a huge factor when determining child support arrangements.
What Are Some Common Child Custody Arrangements?
There are a number of different forms of child custody that the court can order. When determining child custody, the courts will always look at what is in the child’s best interests.
Sole Custody is when one parent is given full physical and legal custody of a child. The child lives with the custodial parent and all major decisions are made by that parent. The child may spend time with the other parent, as a parenting schedule dictates.
Joint Legal Custody is where both parents share the right to make decisions on their child’s behalf. One parent may still have physical custody of the child, but major decisions must be made together.
Shared Legal and Physical Custody is where both parents share the right to make decisions on their child’s behalf, and where the child will spend equal time with both parents, as dictated by a parenting plan. Common parenting plans could include 3 days with one parent, then 4 days with the next (3/4), or a 3/3/1 based schedule.
When parents cannot agree to a custody arrangement, the court will examine all factors, including employment and who is the child’s primary caregiver, to determine the ideal custody arrangement based on the child’s best interests. In these cases, a parenting plan must be put into place. This is a schedule that divides the child’s time between the two parents.
Can Child Custody Plans Change Over Time?
Lives change and so can custody arrangements and parenting plans. That said, changes to a custody plan should not be made lightly. Although child custody arrangements should be periodically revisited to address new issues that may arise, this does not necessarily mean any changes will be successful. For example, what if a parent gets a job in another state? As they get older, the needs and wishes of a child may change, which can also impact custody arrangements.
Another way that child custody arrangements can change is if negative factors are discovered that could impact the child’s wellbeing. This could be anything from alcohol and dependency issues to domestic violence and abuse. If you feel that your child is unsafe in the other parent’s care, you should approach the court with evidence of this immediately.
Although you can reach an agreement in principle to change a custody arrangement with another parent, this will not be legally enforceable unless there is a court order in place. In these cases, it can be best to hire a family law attorney to represent you and your interests.
In an ideal world, both parents would be able to work with each other to create a co-parenting plan and minimize the impact of the divorce on the child’s life. Collaborative law can be useful for this kind of negotiation. However, sometimes a mutual agreement is not always possible.
Child custody issues are extremely sensitive and nuanced. If you have questions regarding your specific child custody case, or any other areas of divorce and family law, please feel free to call us for a consult. We will provide you with individualized legal counsel with one of our family lawyers. Ideally, you may find a reasonable way to resolve your child support issues that may not involve the courts at all. This could include negotiation, mediation, or the Collaborative Law process. A collaboratively trained attorney can help you work together through collaborative practice to find parenting solutions that will result in the best possible child custody arrangement for your children.
Keith Family Law is a full service family law practice in Westfield, New Jersey that serves clients from Union County, Essex County, Hudson County, Morris County, Hunterdon County, Somerset County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and Warren County.