Custody Disputes and Child Custody - Frequently Asked Questions
For those who are not unfamiliar with the process, the issue of child custody is one they would much rather not get involved with.
Unfortunately, with the growing frequency of divorce, more people are now finding that they need to learn more about the issues surrounding it.
Following are some of the most often repeated questions asked by people who are unfamiliar with the subject. The answers provided here represent information collected from various child custody attorneys. While it is true that child custody laws are not the same for all states, the following answers are expressed in general terms. Obviously, you must consult local experts to determine whether these answers will apply, as stated, to your own situation.
What is the Definition of Custody ?
"Custody" refers to the court ruling that decides which party will be responsible for the child or children when their parents are not living together. This can apply to couples who are either divorced or separated, as well as those who have never been married to each other, but are biological parents of the children involved in the case.
How is Legal Custody Different From Physical Custody?
If parent has been given physical custody, it implies that the child will spend full time living at home with that parent, on a more or less permanent basis. If the custody ruling is "joint physical custody", then the child is moved back and forth between the two parent's individual homes.
If a parent is granted "sole legal custody", only that parent holds the legal right to make decisions with regard to the child's health, education, and general welfare (physicians, schools, etc). When "joint legal custody" is ruled, both parents will share in making these decisions.
How is a Custody Decision Made?
A judge will typically give approval to a custody arrangement once it is agreed to by the parents. If the parents are unable to reach agreement, they will be required to speak with a counselor or mediator who will help them work out a plan. The judge is then required to make the decision on any disputed issues that both parties are not able to resolve.
Can a Child Still See a Parent Not Awarded Physical Custody?
Certainly. The court will typically issue an order which provides for the non-custodial parent to have ample visitation rights with the child. This can, however, be restricted in any case where domestic violence is suspected or has occurred, or in a case where a parent's ability to properly care for the child is under question.
What Happens When A Custodial Parent Forbids The Child's To Visit The Other Parent?
The non-custodial parent can request that the court issue a "contempt" order. If the parent is found to be denying visitation the court can impose sanctions. If it can be demonstrated that it was done intentionally, the non-custodial parent may then have grounds to sue for the child's custody. Usually, the judge will require the couple to try to work things out with the help of a councellor of mediator before taking that step.
Can A Custody Arrangement Be Changed If It Isn't Working?
Parents are normally able to make changes to a custody arrangement if it isn't working, provided they are both able to agree on the new plan. They can then request that the judge to make it official. If the parents continue to disagree, they can ask the judge to decide on the changes. The judge's decision will be based only on serving the best interests of the child. This can become problematic if the child has been well-cared for, or if the previous custody plan has been in force for some time.
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For more extensive information regarding Child Custody Issues, there are comprehensive Guides available at: http://tinyurl.com/custody2 where you can get more in-depth information.