When parents divorce, one of the most difficult decisions is what will happen to their children. Who will they be living with? How frequently will they see their other parent? These are tough questions to answer, and there are no simple solutions. 

In this article, we will go over child custody and how it works. We will also discuss some of the factors that should be considered when deciding on child custody, as well as various types of child custody arrangements, and assist you in determining which one is best for your family.

What Is Child Custody?

Child custody is a legal term that refers to a parent's legal and practical relationship with their child. It is typically decided in the context of divorce or paternity proceedings in the United States. However, child custody can be deliberated upon in the context of other family law matters, such as domestic violence proceedings.

There are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is concerned with where the child will live, whereas legal custody is concerned with who will make key decisions regarding the child's welfare. A parent may have sole physical and legal custody of a child in some cases, or the parents may share physical and/or legal custody in others.

When determining child custody, the court typically considers a number of factors, including the parents' desires, the child's preference (if the child is old enough to express one), the parent-child relationship, and each parent's ability to care for the child.

Different Types of Child Custody

Child custody refers to the legal and practical relationship that exists between a parent or guardian and the child in their care. Such custody can be granted to one parent or shared by the parents, and there are various types of child custody, such as physical custody, legal custody, joint custody, and sole custody.

Physical Custody: Definition

The primary residence of the child is referred to as physical custody. The parent with primary physical custody is usually in charge of the child's day-to-day care, which includes providing shelter, food, and clothing. Physical custody may be shared between both parents in some cases, with the child living part-time with each.

Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make decisions about their child's welfare, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. These decisions can be made by the parent with sole legal custody without consulting the other parent. When both parents have legal custody of the child, they must consult each other before making any major decisions regarding the child's welfare.

Joint Custody

A type of physical and legal custody arrangement in which both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for their child is known as joint custody. These arrangements can be either joint legal custody, in which both parents have an equal say in the decisions pertaining to the child's welfare, or joint physical custody, in which the child lives part-time with each parent.

Sole Custody

Sole custody is a child custody arrangement in which only one parent has legal and sole physical custody of the child. This means that the child lives with one parent and is primarily cared for by that parent, while the other parent typically has visitation rights or some form of contact with the child.

This type of custody is frequently awarded as part of a divorce or child custody dispute. It can, however, be granted in other situations, such as when one parent is unable to care for the child due to illness or other factors.

A child custody agreement can be specified in a parenting plan or a court order. Parenting plans are written agreements between the parents that outline the details of their particular child-rearing arrangement. 

On the other hand, court orders are issued by a judge and are legally binding on both parents. In most instances, it is best for parents to come to an agreement on their own about what type of child custody arrangement will work best for their family. Nonetheless, if they are unable to do so, a judge will make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Unmarried Parents’ Custodial Right

Since the 1970s, unmarried fathers' parental rights have come a long way. Previously, if a child was born to an unmarried woman, the child was automatically considered to be the mother's sole legal and physical custody. The father owed the child no legal rights or obligations.

This began to change in the 1970s, when the United States Supreme Court issued a series of decisions recognizing the constitutional rights of unmarried fathers. In the years since, state legislatures have introduced laws granting unmarried fathers certain visitation and custody rights.

In recent years, a growing number of states have passed shared legal custody laws, which give both parents an equal say in major decisions affecting their children. While there is still work to be done, these changes have made it possible for unmarried fathers to be more involved in their children's lives.

Non-custodial parents, for example, may have certain rights depending on the state in which they reside. Unmarried fathers can seek custody of their children in some states if they can demonstrate that they are capable of providing a stable home environment.

In other states, unmarried fathers must establish paternity before they can seek custody or visitation rights. In any case, unmarried parents should request the advice of a father’s rights lawyer or an experienced child custody lawyer before making any decisions regarding child custody.

Types of Visitation Orders

When a couple with children divorces, the issue of visitation rights frequently arises. In many situations, the parents are able to reach an agreement with the assistance of their family law attorneys

If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court may be forced to intervene and issue a visitation order. Depending on the facts of the case, the court may issue one of several types of visitation orders. 

Standard Visitation Order

Standard visitation, or visitation according to a schedule, is the most common type of visitation. The non-custodial parent is usually allowed to visit on weekends and holidays, but they must adhere to a child visitation schedule.

Reasonable Visitation Order

A reasonable visitation order is a child custody arrangement that allows both parents to maintain frequent and meaningful contact with their child. These orders are typically non-binding, which allows the parents to come to their own agreement. This may include regular visits, phone calls, or other forms of communication.

Supervised Visitation Order 

Another type is supervised visitation, which is usually ordered when one parent has a substance abuse problem or a history of violence, or when there is concern about the child's safety. In these cases, the visits must take place in a public venue or in the presence of a court-approved supervisor, the other parent, or a third party.

Unsupervised Visitation Order

Unsupervised visitation means that the non-custodial parent can visit the child without supervision, though there may be restrictions on the times and locations of the visitation schedule.

No Contact Order

Finally, no contact orders are issued when there is evidence that one parent poses a significant risk to the child's safety. These orders typically forbid any form of contact between the parent and the child, including phone calls, emails, and text messages.

Virtual Visitation Order

Virtual or electronic visitation in a child custody case is a method of maintaining contact that involves the use of an electronic medium. Virtual visits can take many forms, including electronic communication such as email, video chat, video mail, and instant messaging. They are usually specified in a parenting plan or custody order.

In some situations, courts will order a combination of these visits. The specifics of your case will depend on the facts of your case, but in general, a reasonable child visitation order should consider factors such as the child's age and relationship with each parent.

How To Get Custody of a Child

The majority of custody and visitation arrangements are made between the parents themselves, rather than by the court. In the event that the two of you come to an agreement, it will be legally binding and enforceable.

However, if one of you does not abide by the agreement, a court will not be able to enforce it until it is a court order. Therefore, if you and the other parent reach an agreement on custody and want a court order that either of you can enforce if the other parent violates the agreement and child visitation guidelines, you can submit your agreement to a judge.

If the judge finds that you cannot resolve your differences through negotiation, they may order you to attend mediation with a mediator from Family Court Services or another program associated with the court system. Moreover, should you and the other parent still be unable to come to terms, you'll have to appear before a judge.

Requirements To Get Custody of a Child

You can engage in several activities that will help you increase your chances of being granted custody of a child.

First and foremost, you must have a quality relationship with the child in question. If you have been actively involved in their life up to this point, you will be able to demonstrate to the court that you are a suitable parent.

Second, you must be able to demonstrate that the other parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child. This may entail presenting evidence of abuse or neglect, or simply proving that the other parent is not physically, financially, or emotionally capable of caring for the child.

Finally, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the financial and logistical resources to care for a child. In short, obtaining custody of a child necessitates extensive preparation and planning. The odds of success are high, though, if you can fulfill all of these conditions.

What Is a Custody Battle?

A custody battle is a legal disagreement between two people over the care and control of a child or children. Parents, grandparents, stepparents, or other relatives can be involved. They can also be non-family caregivers, such as a foster parent or someone appointed as legal guardian.

Custody battles can be highly emotional and stressful for all parties involved. They can also be costly, as the parties frequently hire lawyers and experts to assist them in winning their case. In some cases, these battles can escalate and result in court orders and even jail time for one or both parties. 

The ultimate goal of a custody dispute is to ensure that the child or children are raised in a safe and healthy environment.

Final Thoughts on Custody Rights

At the end of the day, child custody is a complicated process that requires careful thought and meticulous planning. However, with the right resources and support, you can successfully navigate this difficult situation and work to ensure that your child is cared for in a safe and healthy environment.

So, if you are involved in a child custody mediation or dispute, remember to focus on what is best for your child, and seek the assistance of trusted professionals as needed. You can feel confident and prepared as you grapple with this strenuous task if you have these tools at your disposal.