Full custody or sole custody is when one parent has exclusive rights over the children regarding all aspects of their lives. The parent with full or sole custody is usually awarded a maximum amount of child support is usually awarded a maximum amount of child support from the other parent because there will most likely be little if any interaction between the non-custodial parent and the children. Full or sole custody is usually awarded in situations in which one parent has been proven unfit for parenthood or has shown no interest in interacting with the children or whose presence around the children may be harmful to them.
Joint custody is when one parent is considered the primary custodian. The primary custodian is the parent that the children will live with most of the time. The non-custodial parent is entitled to visitation. Usually the visitation schedule is very liberal and allows the non-custodial parent a substantial amount (page 79) of time with the children. However, joint custody does not mean that both parents will have equal time with the children. The non-custodial parent usually pays child support to the primary custodian based on their income and expenses and how many days per year the children will be with them. This is the most common form of custody.
Shared custody is a situation in which both parents will have equal time with the children. They alternate weekly, monthly or whatever is agreed upon. Shared custody is awarded only if both parents get along exceptionally well. Obviously, both parents need to agree on shared custody and need to be living in close proximity to each other to insure that the children are not bounced from school to school, etc. Usually neither parent pays the other child support payments because all expenses are shared between them equally.
Joint custody is the most common because it sets boundaries that both parents must follow and that it is legally easy to monitor and control. In addition, it offers the children a “home base” if you will. This gives the children stability. Shared custody could be a great option for parents who get along. The children get to spend equal time with both parents and this could also lend to greater stability for the children. With shared custody, (page 80) the children are rarely “starved” for the other parent. However, shared custody requires extremely good cooperation between the parents and in most situations a divorce is a result of one of the party’s inability to get along with the other.
When deciding the type of custody that you are going for you need to ask yourself what is best for the children. Don’t decide just because you don’t like your ex anymore that she is all of a sudden a bad mother. It can be difficult to acknowledge someone’s good qualities during a divorce or separation but it is imperative that you do so. This means putting your feelings aside and moving your children’s interests up front. Take into consideration everything that the children will need both physically and emotionally and base your decision on their needs and not what is best for you. Step back for a moment and try to picture how your children’s lives will differ with each type of custody, and then pick the one that they will benefit from the most and then proceed to prove that this is the children’s best option to the judge. If you are seeking sole custody for example; what you are saying to the court is that you, rather than your ex, are more capable of taking care of the children and that they are better off being with you than with your ex. If you believe that this is true then you have to prove that the mother poses somewhat of a danger to the children or that she is a bad influence on them because of alcohol or drug addiction; perhaps she is abusive or unwilling to take care of them and you have always been the one to provide all of the necessary care-giving to the children.
This excerpt from “A Father’s Journey To Custody” by Douglas C. McKee is re-printed in DivorceMag.com with permission. Douglas C. McKee, a father of five beautiful children; two of whom he was awarded primary physical custody from a previous marriage, knows first hand, the heartache of a divorce that involves children and the benefits of maintaining ongoing contact with them during this rough time. The book is available at the author’s website, www.fathersseekingcustody.com.