Child Custody is never simple. On top of the already stressful situation of two or more people vying for a child’s time, that time can be allocated in a variety of ways. The two primary methods of determining custody are physical custody and legal custody. These two options can take a variety of forms or be combined in a variety of ways. It’s important to know all of your options and why a court may rule in favor of one form of custody over another. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What Determines Custody?

The biggest factors that determine which parent the judge favors are known as the child’s “best interests”. In these types of cases, the court is responsible for determining which parent is going to provide the best upbringing for the child. In an ideal world, any kid would get to grow up with constant exposure to two loving and qualified parents. However, that’s usually not possible, or we wouldn’t be talking about custody in the first place!

Financial and mental stability are important features of a qualified parent. Financial stability is vital for things like having a consistent living space and having everything for school. Mental stability is arguably even more important than finances. Any home where there is any kind of emotional abuse or domestic violence is simply unacceptable. Both of these types of stability combined lead to the best odds that a child can grow up in a healthy environment. Also important are the abilities to see extended family members, like grandparents or aunts and uncles, and any other siblings that are involved with the family. The goal is absolutely for the child to have as normal a life as possible.

Two kids helping their dad cleanPhysical Custody

Physical Custody is the determination of where the children are going to spend most of their time. A family court judge will consider the various qualifications(mentioned above) of each parent and make the decision from there. The most important part of this process is determining who is the child’s primary caretaker. In any divorce wherein the father stayed home and the mother worked all the time, he would be considered the primary caretaker that the kids have bonded with. It’s healthiest for the children to maintain that bond, and unless any other factors change things, the father would likely get physical custody.

He would be known as the “custodial parent” and she would have visitation rights. In the past, some kind of “joint physical custody” arrangement may have occurred, but psychologists have since deemed it too disruptive to the child’s schedule. We now use the “every other weekend and half of the holidays” system you’re likely familiar with. This doesn’t grant each parent half of the child’s time, but instead more firmly assigns the “primary” and “visiting” roles to the parents. This makes it even more important to discern which of the two parents is more qualified to take care of the kids (mostly) full time.

Legal CustodyMom taking her son to school

Legal custody is somewhat related to physical custody, but only in a small sense. As opposed to physical custody, joint legal custody is the most common setup. This means that both parents have a say in the legal affairs of the child. Legal affairs can include health care, schooling, and religious upbringing. Legal Custody’s relation to the physical side is that at the end of the day, if both parents absolutely cannot come to an agreement, the custodial parent gets to make the final call because of how much more a part of the child’s life they are. The important thing is to not try to circumvent this system. If you make a decision without the other parent’s involvement in a joint legal custody situation, you may very well be found in contempt of court and could lose some or all of the rights you have.

Even if such obvious disregard for the system doesn’t occur, this decision-making process can still be problematic. All it takes is one parent consistently fighting with the other over legal choices and the court needs to get involved. A judge can officially designate a “tie-breaker” in the event of a disagreement, or just flat out assign sole legal custody. This means exactly what it sounds like, and that one parent will have complete control over the child’s legal situation.

Basically, if you want to have a say or an impact on your child’s life after a divorce, respect the judge and your ex! Even if it’s hard sometimes, the children should come first. It’s important to remember that no matter how hard the situation may be for the parents of a kid, life is even harder for them. Giving a child the best possible environment in which to grow up is the whole goal of parenting in general, and a divorce shouldn’t change that.¬†This is just an article, and any professional legal advice should come from your lawyer! Get in touch with us to schedule any kind of meeting. Child custody cases are never simple, but at Post Falls Law we want to make them as easy as possible.