6 Things You Must Know About Child Custody Laws in the United States

If you are planning to file for divorce because your marriage is unsustainable, then you need to think about your children first. A divorce is going to hit them hard. It is your responsibility that the issues of child custody is solved with the least amount of friction.

Here are some aspects of child custody laws in the United States that you need to consider.

  1.     Does one parent have the right of sole custody before a court’s order?

No. Neither the mother nor the father of the children has sole custody before a court’s order. They share joint custody until the court decides the final settlement between the two.

  1.     “Best interest of the Child”- What does this mean?

Courts often determine the custody of your child based on what will be in the “best interest of the child.” What this means is that the court will place the child’s needs above the interests of parents. It will consider the child’s age, emotional and physical health, mental development, and more for deciding who should get custody.

In case of domestic violence or physical abuse, the culpable parent is almost never granted sole custody.

  1.     Will the court consider your children’s wishes to live with you?

In case of older teenagers, the court might consider their preferences to live with one of their parents. However, when the question is of the custody of younger kids, the court doesn’t give it much value.

  1.     Does physical custody means complete control over the child’s life?

The court can award two types of custodies to the parents: legal custody and physical custody.

Physical custody means that the child will live with the custodial parent primarily and the other parent will have generous visitation rights. This does not make the custodial parent the sole decision-maker. The visiting parent has equal rights to be involved in the child’s important life decisions.

Legal Custody, on the other hand, has nothing to do with where the child lives. It gives a parent the right to make important decisions in the child’s upbringing. They can decide how the child is educated, his or her healthcare, which faith is to be followed, and how they are to live.

Both, legal and physical custodies can be joint or shared. For example if you are trying to get  custody of your child in Fort Collins, the local court may choose to allow parents to share the responsibility and love of their child, or in cases where one parent isn’t fit, grant custody to the more fit parent.

  1.     Will the court provide sole custody if the partner is unfit or unwilling?

Yes, if your partner is unfit to take care of the child, due to being accused of domestic violence, child abuse, adultery, etc — or does not want the custody at all, the court will settle for child support and might award you sole custody.

  1.     Does joint custody work?

More often than not, the court provides joint or shared custody of the child to parents. This is done to give the child a next-to-normal upbringing. Even though joint custody requires ample of corporation between you and your spouse, if you are determined to keep your child happy, you can make it work. In the end, whatever you do, the court must not be the first one to consider the best interests of your child, it has to be you!

Photo by Eric Ward

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