Divorce is a very difficult issue, even when it only involves the lives of two people. When children are added into the mix, it can be almost impossible to come to an arrangement that serves everyone's needs perfectly. Unfortunately, when going through the divorce process, these impossible decisions can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.
That's why it's important, when dealing with a divorce that involves children, to keep your focus on the best decisions for the child. Doing so requires that you understand what types of custody arrangements exist. It also requires you to take a hard, honest look at yourself and your child's needs.
Types Of Custody Agreements
Before you can develop a plan that suits your child's needs properly, you need to understand what options are available to divorced couples. In most situations, there are four different types of custody agreements that can develop. These include:
- Joint Custody--In any matters of child custody, joint agreements are when the parents share responsibility for the child. This can apply to both physical and legal custody agreements.
- Sole Custody--When only one parent has the right to make decisions for or provide for the child, they are said to have sole custody. Again, this can apply to both physical custody concerns and legal matters.
- Physical Custody--This is the right that a parent has to have their child live with them. It is common for the parent who does not have physical custody rights to have visitation rights to spend time with their child.
- Legal Custody--Raising a child includes making decisions about religious exposure, schooling, and medical care--among other things. Legal custody is a parent's right to have a say in these matters. In joint agreements, this right of decision-making input is protected by law.
Determining The Best Agreement For Your Situation
When it's time to sit down with your spouse or lawyer to draft a custody plan, it's a good idea to consider the legal and physical issues separately. It can be overwhelming to try and take them both on as a combined analysis. No matter which component you're looking at, though, the key is to try and understand the impact that every possibility would have on the child.
For example, when determining physical custody arrangements, you'll need to consider the child's age. If they're in the middle of their school career, changing schools might be more of a disruption than a benefit. On the other hand, a young child who hasn't spent much time in school is much more likely to adapt quickly to a new location.
Your spouse's future location is important, too. If you both plan on staying in the same geographic location, your child will have easy access to both of you. If a major move is in store for you or your spouse, however, the physical custody agreement becomes much more of a high-stakes proposition.
On the legal custody side of the arrangement, it's important to know that current trends indicate a move towards shared legal custody. This is the case even though sole physical custody is the norm. This represents an effort to support active involvement by both parents in the child's upbringing, even when the situation requires a single residence for the child.
However, be aware that the joint legal custody arrangement can be complex. At times, when you disagree with your spouse, the situation could lead to court-ordered mediation. When entering into a joint legal custody agreement, it's important to set the tone for productive, honest cooperation and collaboration with your former spouse. If this isn't possible, you may wish to seek alternative arrangements for the sake of your child's well-being.
Custody agreements are just one difficult step in a difficult process. That said, if you understand the choices you make and their implications on your life and the life of your child, you can absolutely create an environment where everyone is in a better place than they were.
Talk with a child custody lawyer or click here for more information.