Getting a divorce brings a myriad of complicated decisions for families, especially when children are involved. Many issues must be addressed, starting with where your children will live and how their expenses will be paid.
When parents split up, the divorce decree will address the child’s custody and other issues, including visitation and child support.
Different types of child custody
There are various types of custody decided by courts, including:
- Physical and legal custody: In most cases, physical custody is given to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. However, many times, the custodial parent will share legal custody with the non-custodial parent. Parents with legal custody have the right to make decisions about their child’s education, health care, religion and other concerns.
- Sole custody: One parent may be granted sole physical custody, sole legal custody, or both.
- Joint custody: Many parents choose a plan where the child will spend an equal amount of time with each parent. Those who favor this arrangement say it lessens the loss a child may feel caused by the divorce. Critics counter that it’s essential for a child to have a home base, with adequate, if not equal, visitation allowed with the non-custodial parent.
- Split custody: This is seen as a less-favorable option in households with multiple children. One parent has custody of one or more children, while the other parent has custody of the other(s).
Putting the child’s interests first
In Massachusetts, New Hampshire and many other states, courts decide who gets custody based on several factors to determine the best interests of the child, including:
- Age, health and gender of the child(ren)
- Emotional ties and relationships between the child and his or her parents, siblings, family and household members or other caregivers
- Each parent’s capacity to provide a safe home and adequate food, clothing and medical care
- Safety and well-being of the child(ren)
- Parents’ fitness, character and reputation
- Preference of each child
Having a plan before going to court can help ease tensions
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for families going through a divorce. Each family has different needs, circumstances and issues. However, thinking about a custodial schedule that will work best for your family can relieve stress and help you transition to your new life.
Seeking the advice of an experienced family law attorney for child custody issues can help families resolve these differences and protect their children from what can develop into a volatile and adversarial situation.