Pakpour Family Law provides legal services in to individuals involved in child custody disputes.
Child custody disputes are without a doubt the most emotionally difficult exercises family lawyers and family law litigants experience. Our relationships with our children are the most fundamental bonds we have. To place those bonds in the hands of a neutral third party, and hope the outcome is positive, can feel like gambling with one’s own identity at stake. For children, the results can be even more catastrophic if the custody order does not accommodate their needs.
That being said, child custody orders are immensely important, for they provide a blueprint to building a new family, sometimes two new families, with which the children will grow, and learn critical life skills. Child custody orders also provide certainty to family law litigants, allowing them to schedule their lives under a new family dynamic.
Two Kinds of Child Custody Orders
There are two categories of custody, both of which must be decided: legal custody, and physical custody.
Legal custody determines which parent will make decisions involving the children’s health, safety, welfare, and education. This includes decisions about where a child will go to school, where and whether a child will engage in religious activities, and whether a child should receive medical care.
Joint legal custody means that both parents share in these decisions. Sole legal custody means that only one parent has the right to make these decisions, and may make such decisions without getting the other parent’s input.
Physical custody refers to where a child will live after a divorce or separation. If a child lives exclusively or primarily with one parent, that parent is usually referred to as the “custodial” or “residential” parent. The other parent is considered the “non-custodial” or “non-residential” parent and typically has visitation rights.
Joint physical custody means that both parents have significant periods of physical custody. If a child’s time is divided equally between the parents, or close to equally, the parents are sharing joint physical custody. Sole physical custody means that a child resides with one parent, subject to the court’s authority to order visitation time with the other parent.
In order to request a child custody order from the court, you must have already started a family law case. That typically means you are in the middle of a divorce, already completed a divorce, or were never married to the other parent, so you have commenced a parentage action. If you have done none of these, then you must start a family law case.