There are two aspects to consider when it comes to custody: legal and physical.
Sole custody is something the courts are beginning to shy away from. More and more judges feel it’s in the best interest of the child to maintain relationships with both parents. That said, if a parent is a danger to the child, such as if there’s a history of physical violence or substance abuse, the Court will award sole custody to the other parent. Even if a parent has sole physical custody, parents will often share joint legal custody.
When you have legal custody, you have the legal right and obligation to make decisions regarding your child’s upbringing. Decisions such as where the child will attend school, religious choices, and medical care are examples of the decisions that are made by the parent or parents with legal custody.
Joint legal custody works well if the parents are amicable, but it can become very challenging if they are not. If, for example, one parent starts making unilateral decisions about where the child will attend school and the other disagrees, the disagreeing parent can go to court to ask the judge to enforce the custody arrangement. This can be both expensive and embarrassing, which is not necessarily in the best interest of the children. If you and your soon-to-be ex are unable to set aside your differences and co-parent together, joint legal custody may not be for you.
Physical custody is the right to have the child live with you. Joint physical custody has its pros and cons and works best when the parents live in fairly close proximity to one another. Having the children live in two houses can be expensive and disruptive. The logistics or transporting the children back and forth between homes can be challenging, and depending upon each child’s temperament, may be hard on the child.
On the other hand, joint custody allows both parents equal access to the children and helps maintain their relationships. Parenting time is split, allowing parents more personal freedom when the children are at the other parent’s home.
As you decide which route to request from the court, remember to keep in mind what’s best for everyone, parents and children alike.
Silky Sahnan is a divorce attorney in Brentwood, California. Visit www.legalservicesca.com to learn more about her firm.