Wondering about what you will face with your children as you and your spouse go through a divorce? Here are some of the most important things to know about the way a court decides legal decision making, formerly known as child custody.
1. Sole Legal Decision Making
Judges are awarding full decision making power to one parent much less in recent years, choosing to allow parents to share the responsibility. If a parent is granted sole custody, this typically means the child will live with them, and that parent is responsible for making important decisions.
2. Joint Legal Decision Making
Once known as joint custody, a judge usually awards both parents–or a third party–partial decision making responsibilities for the child, where both assume some responsibility for the upbringing.
3. Mother and Father
While it was once assumed that the mother could provide the best care if granted sole legal decision making power, states now recognize that traditional stereotypes no longer exist, and a mother is not automatically the best choice.
4. Parenting Time
The court will factor in many aspects of the parents and child when determining what scenario is in the best interest of the child.
These include the child’s:
- Age and mental, emotional, and social development
- Degree of attachment between child and parent
- Ability to adjust to current or new environments
- Preferences, if they are deemed mature enough
And the parents’:
- Involvement in the child’s upbringing
- Physical, emotional, social, and financial stability
- Willingness to cooperate with the other parent
- Geographical residence
- Any history of child abuse or domestic violence
5. Child Support
Typically paid from the non-custodial payment, child support is monetary payments made for the child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and education. This is decided by the court based on income levels, cost of health insurance for the child and number of parenting days and individual family needs.
6. Visitation Schedules
Again, the court focuses on what level of interaction is best for the child, while still trying to be fair to both parents it is. It is presumed that frequent meaningful, continuing contact with both parties is in the child’s best interest. If parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule, then the court will create an order for both parties.
7. Modifying Court Decisions.
When drafting orders for legal decision making, judges often anticipate the changes that could reasonably occur in the future. So if new circumstances (i.e. substantial change) require revisiting the orders, then a hearing will be held to redetermine each parent’s rights, all according to the child’s best interests.
8. Moving Out of State.
Because of different state laws, moving across state lines can cause problems, particularly for visitation rights. The parent who has sole legal decision making powers should petition to modify the orders, and a judge will often approve an out-of-state change of residence if necessary and beneficial for the child, such as a parent’s new job.
9. Unmarried Parents
While laws differ from state to state, in Arizona an unmarried woman is deemed the sole and legal custodian of the child unless a court order states otherwise. This may be challenged if both parents acknowledge paternity, such as on a birth certificate.
10. Work With a Lawyer
If you are currently–or think you may soon be–involved in a disagreement over decision making for your child, meet with a lawyer right away. What starts out as amicable could easily get tricky, particularly when dealing with the sensitive issue of what’s best for your child. Working with a lawyer is the best way to know you are protecting yourself and your children throughout the entirety of your proceedings.
Determining legal decision making for a child after divorce can be a long and challenging path, and having the expertise of a family law attorney is your best chance at a smooth and successful journey. Contact the Simon Law Group for your free consultation.