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How to Get Custody of Your Child
Losing touch with your child is perhaps the most frightening thing a parent can imagine. But the modern court system is designed to help both of a childs parents have a relationship with the child. A parent seeking custody must first decide just what they mean when they say they want to "get child custody."
There are various types of custody available today:
- Joint physical custody
- Joint legal custody
- Sole or full custody
- Split custody
- Non-parental or third-party custody
Joint physical and/or legal custody is preferred by most courts because it is thought to be in the best interest of the child. In joint physical custody, each parent will have the child with them on a regular basis. Note that this does not mean that each parent will have the child an equal amount of time. Rather, the needs of the child will be of paramount concern, and each parents own needs will also be considered in determining a schedule.
Joint legal custody means that although the child lives almost exclusively with one parent, the other parent still has a say in making decisions about the child regarding such things as schooling, medical care, religion, and similar issues.
Sole or full child custody means one parent has physical custody of the child and has the right to make all decisions about the child. The other parent may have limited or no visitation. This circumstance is rare and is usually only granted when a court finds that one parent is incapable of participating in parenting the child. Reasons for such a court finding include drug abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, current incarceration, and similar issues.
In addition, if the parents simply cannot cooperate with each other regarding the child, the court may believe it is in the childs best interest to have the stability of only one custodial parent.
Split custody generally means that a group of siblings may be split between parents for reasons having to do with the best interest of each child. This form of custody is rare because courts usually do not like to split up siblings.
Non-parental or third-party custody usually only applies when both parents are incapable of caring for the child. In general, the law says that parents have a right to be with their children and children have a right to be with their parents. Unless a court finds that the child could be harmed by being with one or both parents, the court will usually not award non-parental custody.
Get Child Custody by Showing It's in the Child's Best Interests
Today courts usually use the "best interest" standard to determine child custody. This standard considers which parent has been the childs primary caretaker, which can best provide continuity of the childs daily activities, and the parents and childs preferences. The goal is to provide the child stability as well as the chance to spend time with each parent on a regular basis.
Since most custody arrangements are for joint custody with one parent having primary physical custody of the child, a parent seeking to get child custody must be able to show the court why it is in the childs best interest to live primarily with that parent.
To get child custody, the parent must not only show why the other parent is not the best person to have custody of the child, but why the parent seeking custody is the best one to care for the child.
Be prepared to show the judge evidence of how you will provide things such as childcare when you are working, a home with enough space for you and your child plus any other household members, food, clothing, medical care, and other important needs. Show that you know the details of your childs education, such as how your child is doing in school, who your child's teacher is, who his or her friends are, what activities your child is in, and similar things.
Keep in mind that its also important to show the court that you know it is vital for your child to have contact with his or her other parent. Courts have said that a child has a right to have contact with both parents. Sometimes, the issue that will tip the custody decision in your favor is your willingness to allow and facilitate your childs contact with the other parent. This shows the judge that you really do have your childs best interests at heart.
Fathers Child Custody Rights
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, many courts awarded custody of children, especially very young children, solely to the mother. The idea was that children of "tender years" need their mothers more than their fathers.
But in recent decades, courts have come to understand that parents of either gender are capable of caring for their children.