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Child Custody

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Prevent Child Abuse-America, one of the nation's leading child abuse prevention organizations, estimates the total direct and indirect cost of child abuse and neglect is approximately $94,076,882,227 per year

Family Law - Child Custody and Visitation

Few issues in dissolution of marriage are more emotionally charged than the issue of the proper placement of children. When parents cannot agree on what is best for their children, the Court will have to make that determination. Litigation is necessary when one or both of the parents totally fails to engage in good faith communication focused on their child's needs, including their health, education, and welfare.

Where parental conflict exists many judges and or parents involve the assistance of psychologists to help determine a parenting plan that serves the best interests of the minor child. Once appointed by the Court, the psychological evaluator then submits each of the parents, their significant others, and usually the child or children to a battery of psychological tests as well as clinical observations. A determination is made as to whether either parent suffers from any psychological dysfunction.

What Does "Best Interests of the Child" Mean?
This phrase governs all aspects of child custody and visitation. Determining what the best interests of a child are depends upon many factors, including the:

  • Child's age, gender, mental and physical health
  • Health of parents
  • Lifestyle and other social factors of parents
  • Love and emotional ties between parent and child
  • Parents ability to provide food, shelter, clothing and medical care
  • Quality of schools in a given locale
  • Child's preference if the child is over 12
  • Ability and willingness of the parent to foster a healthy relationship between child and other parent
  • Stability of the environment

What are the Different Types of Custody Arrangements?

There are two types of child custody:

  • Legal Custody is the right and responsibility to make decisions about the rearing of the child. This includes issues such as education, religion, medical care, and discipline.
  • Physical Custody is the right of a parent to have a child live with him or her. Courts will award legal and physical custody of a child to either one parent ( sole custody ) or both parents ( joint custody ).
  • Child Visitation Rights
    The parent who does not have physical custody of the child is usually given "reasonable visitation" rights with the child. Visitation rights allow the non-custodial parent (the person without child custody) time to spend with their child. Child visitation schedules can be set either by the court or left to the parents to agree upon.

What does "reasonable visitation" mean?

When a court determines the visitation rights of a non-custodial parent, it usually orders "reasonable" visitation, leaving it to the parents to work out a more precise schedule of time and place. Reasonable visitation allows the parents to exercise flexibility by taking into consideration both the parents' and the children's schedules.

What is a fixed visitation schedule?

Sometimes courts will set up a detailed visitation schedule, including the times and places for visitation with the non-custodial parent -- for example, every other weekend or every Tuesday and Thursday evening. A court will be inclined to order a fixed schedule if the hostility between the parents is so severe that the need for regular contact between them may be detrimental to the child. A fixed visitation schedule can still be generous. But it just removes opportunities for one party to control the other's time and allows the children to experience predictability, in an often unsettling period.


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