Child Custody & Visitation
Whether you were married or not, both fathers and mothers have the right, and the responsibility, to be involved in the life of their child, to help make decisions which are in their child’s best interest, and to support their child. The question of who has custody of the minor child is one of the most contentious issues in the practice of family law.
Generally speaking, any decision about which parent has custody, which parent has visitation, and how that works out must be settled “in the child’s best interest.” The law outlines several statutory factors which a court should consider in making this determination; however, those factors are neither exhaustive nor constraining on the discretion of the court.
There are some factors which are typically considered in all custody cases. They include the type of living space each parent can provide for the child, their ability to provide for the child, the education of the child when he or she is in school, the parent’s past willingness to abide by the terms of prior custody and visitation orders, and the parents’ ability to cooperate in making decisions for their child.
Custody comes in two types, legal and physical. The phrase primary physical custody often refers to which parent supplies the child’s principal address, where the child spends most of their time. Legal custody can be either joint or sole. The difference is who can make important decisions about their child’s care and upbringing. Joint legal custody requires cooperation between the parties in all such decisions.
For the parent who does not have primary physical custody, visitation is typically ordered. Visitation comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be supervised, it can be overnights, it can be blocks of summer vacation, or every other weekend. The schedule for visitation is determined by the court according to the child’s best interest. Courts often require that parties strictly abide by a visitation order.
Determining what to expect in your custody and visitation case requires the advice of an attorney familiar with such cases and the courts where they are heard. Often emotions run high and it is difficult to present a case in an effective way without legal counsel. An attorney can draw on their familiarity with similar cases or their prior experience with a particular judge and advise you on the best way to proceed with your case.