Divorce can be difficult and full of emotional twists and turns, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. With proper planning and communication, you can move toward the next chapter of your life with confidence and peace of mind for you and your children.

Determining who will be the custodial parent is a large part of planning for divorce. A custodial parent is the primary parent who lives with minor children and often cares for them. The parent who spends less time with the children or gets visitation rather than has them the majority of the time is called the non-custodial parent. If both parents split the time with children equally, they will both be considered custodial parents.

What is Physical Custody?

Physical custody refers to the parent’s right to take of the children’s needs on a day-to-day basis. Decisions such as the children’s clothing, meals, and bedtime would be part of their daily needs. Typically, physical custody is solely granted to the custodial parent.

Courts can grant joint physical custody, meaning the parents share the responsibility of making decisions regarding the children’s daily care and routines.

What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody refers to the parent’s right to make crucial decisions regarding their child’s life. Decisions such as medical or other health care, whether they will participate in extracurricular activities such as sports or music lessons, and more. Religious activities such as camps or additional instruction regarding religion are also considered part of the responsibility of legal custody.

Joint custody can be granted in this regard and often is so that parents can make important decisions regarding their child’s life together. The custodial parent will likely make most decisions, such as scheduling dentist appointments or planning summer camp. Still, if both parents have legal custody, they both retain the right to have an opinion on how their children are raised.

It is important to note that if the judges can see clearly that the parents likely won’t be able to agree on future decisions, they may choose to award sole legal custody to one parent to avoid significant conflict in the future.

How is Custody Determined?

Above all, courts will keep what is in the child’s best interest as their primary goal. Parents can mutually or separately decide what they wish to happen for their children following the divorce, but if the courts see that those plans aren’t in the child’s best interest, they will make adjustments as they see fit.

Some of the most common criteria that the court reviews are listed below;

The child’s relationship with each parent – is there an apparent disparity between who the child has a bond with?

Relationships with siblings – what is the child’s relationship with the siblings or other individuals in each household? Will spending more or less time with them be a detriment to the child’s development?

The physical, mental, and emotional health of each parent – if one of the parents has physical limitations or has significant emotional concerns, this may sway the courts’ decisions.

Ability to care for the child – each parent’s ability to care for the child will be closely examined. Do they have a schedule that can accommodate the child’s needs? Do they have an established routine, such as helping with homework or feeding the children?

Primary caretaker – along the lines of the above topic, which parent has typically carried out the daily tasks in the past, and can the other parent shift their life to accommodate becoming a caretaker when necessary?

Domestic violence – does either parent have a history of domestic violence or abuse, or does anyone in the parent’s homes have a history of abuse?

Parenting Plans

When creating a shared parenting plan, it is essential to include schedules for when the children will be with each parent, where drop-offs or pick-ups will occur, and when. It is also essential to establish how the parents will communicate necessary changes to this schedule or what happens when unforeseen circumstances arise, such as medical issues or changes in sports schedules.

Deciding where the children will spend most holidays and birthdays is also essential as part of the parenting plan.

If the parents can’t work together to form a parenting plan that works, they can seek the help of mediation. Mediation provides a more private and informal negotiation process than within the courtroom. A neutral third party can review what each parent hopes for and help them to navigate to an agreement that works best for the child.

This process appeals to most parents as they can have an agreement and plan in place before entering the courtroom so they maintain control of their children’s decisions.

Family Law Attorneys – An Extension of Your Advocacy

We understand that decisions involving our children are weighted with emotion and instinct. By working with a trusted and experienced attorney, you can ensure that your children are cared for the way you want them to be now and in the future.

Divorce can be challenging, but there are ways to plan accordingly to avoid unnecessary stress and frustrations. Working with an attorney with experience with several families over the years gives them the insight needed to help you formulate a plan that works for you and your family. Our team takes an honest and aggressive approach to ensure the most important part of your lives, your children, are prioritized and efficiently planned for.

Contact our office today at (360) 926-9112 to learn how we can best help you and your family. You are their advocate. Let us be yours.