Custody: What is It? and Who Should Be Responsible for the Children?



There are a few types of custody, which is who has physical (where the child lives and for what percentage of the time) and legal (who can make decisions for the child and what percentage of the time) rights. Many couples opt for the standard visitation package that the judge cooks up at the divorce hearing, however, many couples are creative about it nowadays.

Custody, visitation, and these percentages become part of the divorce decree, and the court order must be followed. Should one parent disagree with that court order, that parent must file a petition to modify the court order and be prepared to provide information about why it should change.

Red Flags to the courts:

  • One parent claims that the other is abusive, but in actuality, that parent is angry about something else and doesn't want to share custody. This happens at times, and is very unfair to the fathers.

  • One parent claims that the other has some other terrible fault to gain more access to the child, and therefore, child support money.

  • One parent is asking for sole parenting without any pervasive problem with the other parent.

End the "He Said/She Said" - create documentation to avoid conflict

Reasons to ask for sole parenting priviledges:
  • The other parent really is abusing your child or you. This means hitting, beating, extreme anger and cruelty, bruises, broken bones, yelling, put downs, isolation, etc...you get the idea. If this is your life, YES, get out of the situation, get to a shelter or a family member's home, and find further help there. Get the restraining order in place. Then, petition the court for your divorce and sole custody. It will be a difficult battle though, but certainly worth it to be free of an abusive spouse.

  • The other parent has been incarcerated.

  • The other parent uses drugs, alcohol, or smokes.

  • There are probably a variety of other reasons also, however, if one parent just "believes" that he or she is a better parent, this is not a valid reason to gain extra parenting time.

One interesting tool that many parents are using to keep their schedules in line is the Family Wizard program. It allows parents to record important info about family scheduling, like who is supposed to pick up the children from school, and if support payments are made on time, and allows parents to create documents to bring to court if necessary. This is welcome relief to writing it down in books or trying to remember details later. If your family has issues with missed pick ups, any type of suspected abuse, or if you just want to make everything easier for both households, the Family Wizard is a great start or new tool to begin using.

Simple & effective online joint custody tools, so effective it is ordered by courts in over 35 states

The Difference between Custody and Visitation

Custody is your plan for parental rights, visitation is the schedule for when you will see your children.

Joint or Shared is Where It's At!

Most couples will fall into the Joint Custody category, simply because both parents want to be involved in their children's lives. That's the good news. The bad news is you have to deal with the other spouse for many years.

Many parents use the term, "co-parenting," now to show that they are both on the same page with parenting. Many families have fathers who want to share equal parenting time, and do. Some parents have flexible schedules to allow for their children's needs and have more opportunities to spend time with their children.

Some parents don't want to give up any parenting time, however, it is only fair in most situations. A standard visitation is the dad gets the kids every other weekend from Friday night to Sunday night. That's 12 full days with mom, and only 2 with dad! For young children, this may not be appropriate. This is the time to be creative. Maybe younger children need to begin visiting with Dad only on Wednesday nights, and not stay over until the child feels more ready. Lots of fears come up for children when their parents are divorcing, and they should be respected and listened to with care.

Parents would do well to allow the children to have some say in the overnights and the visits. A large number of children would be able to be taken seriously about what they want. If the parents can accommodate it, do it. Work into the situation gradually if you must, to accommodate those needs. Big changes and/or lots of them at one time are very difficult for little ones and big kids.

Don't Forget! Visitation and Child Support are Separate Issues!

One parent is legally not allowed to keep a child from seeing the other parent for non-payment of child support.

Real-Divorce recommends:

Other Real-Divorce Articles you may find helpful:

Child Support Series
Parental Rights and Relocation
Children and Divorce Series

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Disclaimer: The information on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not legal advice and may not apply to your situation. I take the time to gather the best information to those going through divorce, and offer a place for readers to learn, get support and fantastic resources, and find applicable products that are a good fit for them. You can support this site by purchasing high quality products or services from the sponsors I link to.

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