Child Custody Guidelines
Every state has specific laws regarding child custody but there are some universal guidelines about child custody that every divorcing parent should know.
These are the little rules, regulations, and tips that can help you create the best parenting plan for your child, navigate through any custody disputes or issues, and help keep you sane during the whole process.
Here are some issues that will need to be addressed in every child custody case:
- Where will your child live?
- How much time will you get to spend time with your child?
- Who will be responsible for making decisions for your child?
- How do you put all of this information together?
- What happens if you don't agree with your ex-spouse on the custody arrangements?
- How does the court determine the outcome of your case?
Fortunately, you can get Custody X Change. Custody X Change is custody software that you can use to create your parenting plan.
This provides you with the necessary guidelines to create your customized agreement and also helps you prepare for court, mediation, and negotiating with the other parent.
Let's look at some specific aspects of the custody process and how Custody X Change can guide you through the important parts of your custody case.
One of the first things you will have to decide on in your child custody case is where your child will live so you should be prepared to state his or her primary residence.
Establishing a primary residence is important, even if the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent. This will be the address you will submit to your child's school, doctor, and any other entity that requests an address.
The primary residence is usually the home that the child will spend the most time at but some states allow parents to take turns using their address as the child's primary address for legal purposes.
They amount of time you are able to spend with your child is dependent upon the type of physical custody you have.
Some states may call it something different (such as residential custody). Regardless of your state's technical term for it, physical custody pertains to the physical care and control of the child on a day to day basis.
There are generally three types of physical custody:
- Sole custody means one parent is primarily responsible for the care of the child. The other parent may have visitation time with the child.
- Joint (or shared) custody means that both parents will share physical custody of the child, though they do not necessarily need to have the child an equal amount of time.
- Split custody means one parent will have custody of one child and the other parent will have custody of the other child. Courts typically prefer to keep siblings together but there are circumstances where split custody makes sense.
Some states have a preference for ruling in favor of joint custody unless it is proven that it would not be in the child's best interest to do so. Other states evaluate custody on a case by case basis.
The parent that has physical custody of the child is responsible for the day to day decisions regarding the child (such as what they will have for breakfast or establishing a bedtime) but there are more important decisions to be made.
Legal custody pertains to parental rights and responsibilities and the ability to make decisions regarding the child's health, education, religion and other important matters.
There are two types of legal custody:
- Sole legal custody means that only one parent will be able to make the long-term parenting decisions.
- Joint legal custody means that both parents will make mutual decisions and share legal custody. This is the most common type of legal custody and most parents will share legal custody of their child even if one parent has sole physical custody.
When parents share legal custody they will also need to create a method or process they will use to help them reach a mutual agreement.
You will need to create a document that details all of your custody arrangements to present to the court. This can be called a parenting plan, a custody agreement, a parenting agreement, or something similar, depending on which state you live in.
Your parenting plan may include the following elements:
- The name and age of your child
- A designation of a primary residence for your child
- A declaration as to the kind of physical and legal custody you will have
- A child visitation schedule (or parenting time schedule) that details when your child will spend time with each parent on a routine basis as well as holiday and vacation times
- A delegation of specific parental rights and responsibilities to either or both parents
- Any provisions you wish to include, such as details about transporting the child between homes, extra-curricular activities, and methods for communication
- A method of dispute resolution
- A method for periodically reviewing the plan
Though it may seem like that is a lot of information and it may seem overwhelming, Custody X Change will make it easier for you. Custody X Change takes you through all of the steps as you create your parenting plan. All you need to do is answer the questions and enter the information.
You can use Custody X Change to make a complete parenting plan as well as a child visitation schedule in calendar form. You will then be able to print out professional looking documents to present to your ex, a mediator, and the court.
Parents are encouraged to work together and create a parenting plan that they both agree on but this is not always possible.
If you are unable to agree on a plan, you will need to seek the assistance of an outside source (such as a court appointed mediator) to help. A mediator is an impartial party that will listen to both of you and try to help you find common ground.
If you have tried everything and are still unable to reach an agreement, your child custody arrangements will be decided for you by the judge or an officer of the court.
A common factor every court uses to make decisions in custody cases are the "best interests" of the child. This means the court will base decisions on what is determined to be best for the child's health, safety, and physical and emotional well-being.
Some of the factors the court may consider are:
- The history of the care of the child
- The child's relationships with each parent and other important people in the child's life
- Each parent's willingness and ability to properly care for the child
- The needs of the child and how well each parent is able to meet those needs
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
- Any factors than may be harmful to the child, such as domestic violence or drug abuse
- Any other factors the court finds to be relevant
Some states take the wishes of the child under consideration but many times parents feel it is best to keep their child out of the middle of their divorce proceedings.
As you create your parenting plan, you should also keep the best interests of your child in mind. Courts are much more likely to accept and approve parenting plans that both parents are able to agree on and that promote the child's best interests.