Types of Child Custody
If you are seeking custody of your child or children following a divorce or break up, you need to know about the different types of child custody arrangements, including joint child custody, sole or full child custody, split child custody, and non-parental or third-party child custody.
In child custody cases, a judge will consider the best interests of the child. According to the American Bar Association, most states have laws that encourage children to have an ongoing relationship with both parents, but if one parent tries to undermine the childs relationship with the other parent, that could count against the parent when custody arrangements are being made. When other factors are equal, a court may grant custody to the parent who is more likely to encourage good relationships with his or her ex.
Determining custody arrangements can be difficult for couples who are splitting up. You may not be able to live with your ex, but you will always be connected to them through your children. Its important to understand the different types of child custody and which one will work best for your children, you, and your ex.
Joint Child Custody
Over the last 20 years, courts have come to prefer joint child custody arrangements whenever possible. While the specifics can vary, joint child custody means that parents share the legal responsibilities, and the physical care and custody of their children.
There are many factors to consider when seeking a joint custody arrangement, including how much time the child spends with each parent, where the child attends school, and who pays for what expenses. In order to make a joint custody arrangement work for you and your children, you need to be able to at least calmly and rationally communicate with your ex on a regular basis.
Sole or Full Custody
In the past, most child custody agreements cases were sole or full custody arrangements, where one parent-often the mother-was named the custodial parent and had the legal responsibility and physical care and control of the child. Usually, the noncustodial parent was granted visitation. In sole or full custody agreements, the custodial parent has the final say in making decisions regarding the child, including what religion the child is raised in, and where the child attends school.
A less-common type of custody arrangement is split child custody, where multiple children are split between their parents. Its unusual because courts generally do not like to separate siblings and believe that siblings benefit from growing up with each other.
When considering a split custody arrangement, courts usually consider age differences among siblings, special needs the children might have, disciplinary issues, and how a child might fit into a new household. Courts may also consider the preferences of the parents and the children.
Non-Parental or Third-Party Custody
In some cases, courts may award custody to someone who is not a parent. This may happen if a parent dies and the remaining parent is determined to be unfit to raise the child alone. A non-parent or third party who has been raising the child for an extended period of time may also be awarded custody.
Third parties who are likely to seek custody may be grandparents, aunts, uncles, stepparents, or partners in a same-sex relationship.
When it comes to non-parental or third-party custody disputes, most states prefer to award custody to a parent unless that parent is considered unfit. When challenging a parent for custody, a non-parent has to prove the childs best interests will not be served by granting custody to the parent.
Child custody agreements and laws vary from state to state, and you should talk to your lawyer about your options. Ideally, you and your ex will be able to reach an agreement on child custody, which a judge will then approve. If the two of you cant reach an agreement together, the judge will make that decision for you.