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Child Custody

Legal help for child custody issues

Coming to a child custody agreement is an essential step when a couple with children chooses to separate or divorce. Depending on the circumstances, the children may end up in the sole custody of either their mother or father or the joint custody of both parents. In shared custody arrangements, there is also an important distinction between physical child custody and legal child custody which both parents need to understand, and this often proves to be one of the major child custody issues which must be resolved in family court.

A closely related issue revolves around which parent is on the hook for child support payments to the other. In most cases, this will depend on where the children spend the majority of the time and the level of income disparity between the two parents.

How Child Custody Laws Work

With few and rare exceptions, both parents have child custody rights under the law. In most cases, you will only be disqualified from visitation or custody rights if a family court deems you to be an unfit parent due to criminal, addictive or violent behavior.

You and your partner will have to come to an agreement on both physical custody and legal custody. Physical child custody refers to where the children live the majority of the time; they will spend the most time with the parent who has physical custody. However, legal child custody is another matter—it refers to which parent has the legal right to make decisions on the child's behalf. Note that the parent with legal custody need not be the parent with physical custody.

Both physical and legal custody may be sole or joint. Thus, a mother may have sole physical custody of the children but share legal custody with the father, or vice-versa. Another scenario, informally known as "bird's nest custody," refers to a shared custody situation in which the children do not go back and forth between their mother's and father's homes. Rather, they live at a single location and their parents rotate in and out. This option is favored by some parents because it creates more stability in the children's lives.

Know Your Child Custody Rights

If you and your partner are getting separated or divorced, or if your children were born out of wedlock and you and the other parent are not cohabiting, you should contact a family law attorney. This is the best way to ensure that your parental rights are protected, and it will also give you the best chance at arranging exactly the type of child custody situation you prefer.

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