What does Joint Custody Mean?

domestic_violence-2-960x640Going through a divorce will likely be an emotionally taxing process for you, your spouse, and your children. If your children are not legal adults, part of the process of your divorce will be deciding how much time each parent should have with each child, and when those times should be. There are many ways to divide custody. In the past, mothers were almost always given full custody of their children. However, in recent years, it is very rare for one parent to be awarded full custody of their children; this usually only happens if one parent is deemed totally unfit to raise their children. Joint custody is a far more common arrangement.

What is Joint Custody?
In joint custody, both parents share custody of their children, and must agree when the children will be with which parent, and the duration their visits should last. Some courts may give each parent every other week with their children. Others may decide arrangements based around parents’ work schedules, while others still have other ways of deciding. Divorce courts must keep the best interests of the children in mind as they make arrangements, and a wide variety of factors are considered.

In many cases, restrictions are placed on both parents. For example, parents may not be allowed to defame each other in front of their children. They may be instructed to avoid being intoxicated while they have custody. These are only a few examples; judges may choose to place any restraints on parents that they feel will help protect children from harm or distress.

How is custody decided?
A wide variety of deciding factors come into play when determining how custody should be broken up. For example, a parent must be able to sufficiently provide for the mental, emotional, physical, medical, educational, psychological, recreational, and spiritual needs of their children. Parenting skills, levels of education, and how much time a parent will likely have to spend with their children may also be considering factors.

Past histories of abuse or neglect committed by a parent will influence the court’s decisions. This includes domestic violence perpetrated by one parent toward the other. If a parent is found to be manipulative or coercive toward their children in an attempt to damage their relationship with the other parent, this can hurt their chances of getting the custody arrangement they would prefer.

If the courts believe that a child is mature enough to voice their preferences on custody, the child’s desires will be given weight as well. In addition, if a guardian ad litem is used, their suggestions may be taken into consideration.

Divorce is often a jarring and upsetting time for parents and children alike. Parents can find themselves in the middle of costly, drawn-out custody battles. By keeping your children’s best interests at heart, you can avoid causing them unnecessary stress as you make custody arrangements. Be sure to prepare yourself for court proceedings by educating yourself on child custody laws and understanding how courts make their decisions on custody.

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