What Are My Custody Rights?

Custody decisions in every state are based on this fundamental question – what is in the best interests of the children. Mothers and father need to resolve who will be the primary caretaker for the children and which parents will make the important lifelong decisions for the children. Parents generally either share custody rights or place them in one parent.

How does child custody work?

If the parents are married, custody is usually resolved during the divorce of the spouses. If parents are not married, then custody through a custody proceeding. Parents can agree about custody:

  • By agreeing between themselves or through their lawyers
  • Through a mediation process
  • Through a divorce collaboration process (for married parents)

If parents can’t agree, then the family court judge decides which the custody dispute.
Courts sometimes resolve custody disputes before any formal agreement or decision about custody rights is made.

How to get physical or legal custody of a child

Most states have two different types of custody – physical and legal custody

  • Physical custody. Physical custody is the decision about where the child will live and who will take care of the child’s daily needs. Most courts recognize that the divorce of spouses or the separation of unmarried parents is already hard enough on the children. Family courts favor keeping other factors such as where the child sleeps and which school the child attends as stable as possible.
  • Legal custody. Most states use the term legal custody or some variant to make clear who makes the major decisions for the child such as his/her education, health care treatments, and religious upbringing.

How to get full custody of my child

To get full custody of your child usually means being award both physical and legal custody of your child. Courts tend to favor that legal custody be shared by both parents. Physical custody can be shared meaning the child sleeps at the home of both parents. In many locations, one parent is awarded physical custody and the other parent obtains the right to visit with the child at standard times. Standard times are typically alternate weekends, alternate holidays, and summer vacations.

Child custody for mothers

Parents used to automatically favor the mother when it came to custody. While that decision is not automatic these days, many parents often agree and courts do award physical custody to the mother for practical reasons. Attorneys often argue that a mother is more likely to stay at home and be there for the child while the father is at work. In many cases, the father is the one who leaves the home and the mother stays in the marital home or the home where the child was raised – which means stability favors the mother.

How to win child custody disputes

Family court judges consider many factors in deciding whether mothers or fathers should get custody, if custody should be shared or split, and what visitation or parenting plans should be made. Some of these factors are:

  • The type of home the child will live in
  • Whether the child will stay in the same school and have the same friends
  • If the children will move or stay in the family home
  • The ability of the parents to communicate with each other and with relatives
  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • The child’s age and sex
  • The wishes of the child – if they are older
  • Whether any children have special needs
  • Any history or parental substance or sex abuse
  • The ability of the mother or father to discipline the child

Courts generally seek to resolve child support, property division, and alimony issues so that custody is decided based on which parent can best raise the child and not which parent has the most money.

To learn more about how to get custody of kids, speak with an experienced custody attorney today

Custody fights are often the most emotional and contested part of a divorce or separation. It's important to talk to your child and help them cope through this emotionally taxing time in their life. Parents who want to understand how to obtain custody and prepare for custody disputes should speak with experienced family law attorneys as early as possible.

References: Helping Your Child Through a Divorce

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