If you’re heading into a child custody case, you probably have a lot of questions about what to expect. From determining custody rights to calculating support payments, there’s a lot that happens. So to give you a little extra insight, here are some of the most common questions about child custody cases.
What Factors Does The Court Consider When Determining A Child Custody Case?
Like most things in the legal realm, factors will vary based on the particular laws in each state. That said, most courts tend to follow the Child’s Best Interest Standards, which includes such things as:
- The child’s age, sex, and mental and physical health
- The physical and mental health of the parents
- Special needs
- The child’s own wishes (if they are old enough to say)
- Environmental factors, such as neighborhood safety, quality of the school district, and proximity to other friends, family, and activities
- The stability of each parent’s lifestyle
- Each parent’s commitment to facilitating a healthy and continuous relationship between the child and other parent.
In some rare cases, a judge may override these standards depending on the other factors of the case. However, this usually is due to some sort of extreme change within the family.
What Are The Different Types Of Custody?
Custody can be broken down into two main categories: sole and shared. Underneath these categories, you have two subcategories: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody means the child lives with you. Legal custody refers to a parent’s responsibility to make legal decisions for the child.
With sole custody, one parent is awarded both physical and legal custody. In this situation, the parent with sole custody does not have to consult the other parent about legal decisions. However, in some cases, a non-custodial parent may retain visitation rights and is often required to pay child support.
Shared custody, also known as joint custody, is when both parents have custody over the child. In this situation, the child will spend time with each parent, both of whom are responsible for the physical and legal care of the child. It’s important to note, however, that joint custody does not guarantee time will be equally split between each parent.
Will I Have To Pay Child Support?
Whether or not a parent will be court-ordered to pay child support to the other parents depends on the outcome of the custody case. No matter what, the law requires all parents to fulfill their financial obligation to their children. So in almost all situations, you will be supporting your child financially in some form or fashion.
Sole custody cases tend to be more cut and dry when it comes to child support. In this situation, the non-custodial parent is often required to pay to support the custodial parent to cover until the child reaches the age of adulthood, entered the military, or is declared emancipated.
Joint custody cases can be a little more complicated, and the amount of support can be affected by the outcome of the case. In cases where the children evenly split their time with each parent, the court may determine that each parent’s obligation is already fulfilled. However, in a situation where the time is not split evenly, the court may assume that the parent with the greater amount of physical custody carries more of a financial burden than the other parent, and therefore may require the parent with the smaller share to pay more in support.
At the end of the day, there’s not one formula for determining how much each parent will pay or what they’re responsible for. This will often depend on the factors of the case.
Can I Prevent My Child From Being Around My Ex’s New Partner?
In general, you do not have the power to control who your child is around while they are with the other parent. This includes new partners, friends, and significant others.
If for some reason, you believe the other parent is keeping company that might hurt or abuse your child, then you will need to present this evidence during the custody hearing or, if concerns are raised after the hearing, you may wish to return to court to amend the agreement. You should understand, however, that the burden of proof is on you. If you are unable to prove that your child is in physical, mental, or emotional danger, then you will have no recourse for action.
How Does The Court Determine Custody If The Parents Are Unmarried?
As with everything else on this list, determining custody between two unmarried parents depends on varying factors, as well as the law in each state. In some situations, sole custody may be awarded to the mother unless the father establishes paternity or demands custody. In those situations, custody will be determined according to the child’s best interests, just like any other case.
If you have more questions about custody cases or are in need of a child custody lawyer, call the attorneys at Merrill, Merrill, Mathews, and Allen today. We specialize in family law, divorce, and child custody cases, and we’ll gladly help you through the entire process.