Child custody disputes determine which parent will have custody of the children. Legal custody is often joint. Legal custody gives the parent the right to make decisions regarding medical treatment, get school records, and do other things that are typically the right of the parent to do. Physical custody is the matter over which most custody battles occur. Physical custody is determination of which parent will be the primary custodian. The physical custodian typically makes the final decision if there is a dispute, and the children stay with the physical custodian.
In the end of a marriage, child custody is legally a separate issue from divorce, but it has been brought under the umbrella of divorce by the courts over the years. It has been drawn into the divorce arena to such a degree that many people do not realize that there is a difference between the two. While the two are usually argued in the same hearing, the method of evaluation is different for determining the custody of a child. In divorce, arguments are made about which spouse deserves which assets and which spouse needs what funds, but children are not assets. Arguments for custody revolve around the best interest of the child.
Child custody hearings evaluate factors such as the suitability of each parent, the psychological, emotional, and developmental needs of the child, the ability of the parents to communicate with each other, the prior and continuing care the parents have given the child, parental support for the other parent's relationship with the child, the wishes of the child (taking into account the child's age and maturity level), the safety of the child, the geographic proximity of the parents, any custodial agreements of the parents, and any history of domestic abuse.
At the age of fourteen (14), a child has the right to choose with which parent he or she wishes to live.
To discuss child custody with one of our family law attorneys, call 770-461-2025.