All you need to know about Child Custody
Child custody is the most hotly contested
issue in a divorce case. Many people
feel that they are the proper party to have the sole care, custody, and control
of the minor children, even though it really might be in the best interest of
the minor children that they be with the other party. For example, there are many men who come to
me and say they want to have custody of their child. I then inquire as to what they do for a
living, how much time would be available for the child, do they have any
experience in this, have they been a hands-on father, and more likely than not,
I receive answers that basically lead me to believe that this person is not a
fit and proper person over the other spouse to have the care, custody, and
control. The person simply wants to
fight for something, or the person simply is on the mistaken belief that they
can do just the same as a stay-at-home mom.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Children require a lot of work, a lot of
attention, a lot of dedication. If the
husband, in my example, is working 50 or 60 hours a week, how can he possibly
provide the proper care for that child without additional help? By the same token, there are a lot of women
who believe that they have raised the children, up until the date of divorce,
and therefore they don't have to cooperate or consult with the father over
health, education, religious decisions.
What these parties fail to realize is that
the best interest of the child standard is what applies, and isn't it in the
best interest of the child that both parties have an active role in the child's
life? Isn't that what you really want,
as a spouse, that your child is going to be well taken care of, and that your
child is going to feel comfortable around both spouses? Divorce is devastating enough on a family and
on the parties. Why make it worse than
it has to be on your child, who did nothing to cause the problem?
In a custody battle, once the court is
aware that there may be a disagreement, the court will order mediation. Mediation is a great opportunity for both
spouses to sit down with a court-ordered mediator and learn, basically, what custody
is all about. Many people come to me and
they don't understand that custody does not mean whoever gets custody, the
other has no rights. Other times people
feel like if they have joint custody, then the other party is going to be
having too much of a say, and they're going to have to dictate or request
everything that goes through the other spouse.
In reality, there is joint custody for
decision-making and then there is physical custody, where the child lives on a
day-to-day basis. In my experience, the
best form of custody is where both parties can cooperate together for the best
interest of the child, to be involved in the child's life, and have an input
over the health, education, religious, and extracurricular activities of the
child. It is only in rare circumstances,
in my opinion, where the parties simply cannot get along to the point where
they can't even cooperate or effectively co-parent for the minor child.
Whoever has physical custody of the minor
child, the non-custodial parent is going to have reasonable visitation with the
minor child, so it's not like whoever has custody has full control and the
other party has nothing. There is always
going to be something for both parties, although it might not be joint
decision-making; the non-custodial party will have support.
Consult a local family law and divorce
attorney to assist you in this difficult process, especially if custody is
going to be a contested issue.