By Hayder Shkara, Family Lawyer
Divorce outcomes of a parent with kids always end up with legal arrangements for child custody, which are done in the kids’ best interest. There are several ways to make child custody arrangements that are decided by either the child’s parents or a court.
Couples who cannot discuss, negotiate, and make child custody arrangements amicably outside the courtroom often depend on the court to judge the case and decide for them by making a custody decree in writing. The court has the legal obligation to order a child custody decision for parents.
During divorce arrangements, parents can discuss and decide on child custody. They may decide to use the mediation approach, which is best for negotiations in making the best child custody arrangements without one partner feeling cheated.
What are the Child Custody Arrangements?
Child custody arrangements contain agreements and schedules that parents are expected to perform during the child’s upbringing despite being separated or divorced. Schedules can be done weekly, monthly, or during vacation and holidays. Other child custody agreements may include child support, special events schedules, child health care, relocation plans, religion, etc.
Child custody arrangements are decided after thorough considerations of the child’s best custody. This applies especially regarding the child’s well-being and how they can help in their upbringing.
Many states differentiate between physical custody (where the child lives) and legal custody (the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing). One parent may have primary physical and legal custody, or primary physical and joint legal custody, or joint physical and legal custody, depending on the best interests of the child.
The Three Most Common Child Custody Arrangements
Although there are several existing types of child custody arrangements, here are the three most common types.
1. Primary Physical Custody
In this case, the child lives with the parent granted custody by the court. The parent with such custody is the one that provides primary care for the child until some emergencies or circumstances warrant for the other parent (noncustodial parent) to show up.
However, the court may grant custody to the child’s grandparent if the child’s parents are dead or unable to perform custody rights. The child’s grandparents may also be given the right to visit the child after considering it suitable for the child.
There may be possibilities of making changes to these child custody arrangements if the divorced parents agree on the arrangements or are later deemed fit to perform child custody rights. Parents should discuss and negotiate their custody arrangements during a divorce to avoid physical child custody arrangements.
2. Joint Custody
In a joint custody arrangement, both parents are ordered to play active parental roles in the child’s upbringing. Each parent is assigned a role and schedule. In some cases, both parents get a 50-50 custody arrangement.
The child is also expected to move from one parent to the other from time to time, depending on the court arrangements. Parents may also decide to make their arrangements.
The court may award joint legal custody to allow both parents to play active roles in the child’s life while enjoying primary physical care from one parent.
There may also be some variations in joint physical custody: for example, in joint or shared custody, the child moves from one parent’s home to the other’s on a predetermined schedule. If the court also awards joint legal custody, then both parents must make important decisions about the child’s education and upbringing together rather than one parent making unilateral decisions.
3. Sole Custody
In sole physical and legal custody, one of the parents is given an exclusive right to take full custody of and make decisions about the child.
Sole custody arrangements are not as common as joint custody and physical custody. It is usually given when one parent appears as potential threat to the child: for example, when a parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol, mentally unstable, or abusive, that parent is considered a risk to the child’s well-being and will be restricted from performing parental care for the child.
Depending on the law, sole custody could mean sole physical custody or sole legal custody arrangements. They are both different types of sole custody arrangements.
For legal custody arrangements, the parent’s wishes do not influence custody arrangements. In contrast, the other parent may choose to decide on the child’s medical care, schooling, welfare, religion, etc.
Sole physical custody can include the child being under the care of one parent. Still, the other parent may be allowed to visit unless ordered by a court to be restricted based on the risks involved to the child’s well-being in such situations.
Hayder Shkara is the principal of Melbourne Family Lawyers. He has vast experience in family law but specializes in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Communications from UTS. www.