Child custody and visitation are often primary concerns of parents going through a divorce. These also tend to be the most emotionally difficult legal processes in a divorce where minor children are involved. Below, you will find introductory information on child custody and visitation, answers to common questions about visitation, and information on how custody decisions are made. In addition, this section also includes some practical considerations for parenting after a divorce, such as virtual visitation and how to help ease the strain of divorce on children.
The Different Types of Child Custody: Overview
Since courts cannot "split the baby," so to speak, divorcing parents are granted various types of custody with respect to dependant children. Family courts are supposed to base these decisions on the best interests of the children, rather than the personal preferences of the parents. Most courts prioritize the importance of both parents' presence in the lives of their children, but will grant one party sole custody in some instances.
Here are the main child custody terms considered by family courts in a divorce case:
Factors Affecting Custody Decisions
The guiding factor in any child custody decision is "the child's best interests," which isn't always that simple to determine. Sometimes children are independently evaluated by psychologists or social workers to help the court reach a conclusion. State laws differ, but courts generally consider the following factors when deciding custody cases:
Visitation is an important aspect of child custody, as it mandates limited times when the noncustodial parent may visit with his or her child. But even if a judge orders "reasonable visitation," the details typically must be worked out by the parents themselves. Generally, the custodial parent has the most influence over visitation times and terms. Noncustodial parents who believe they are not getting fair visitation with their child may call for a court hearing on the matter.
Click on a link below to learn more about the basics of child custody.