Getting a divorce is never an easy time, but it can be even more complicated if there are children involved. Parents naturally want what’s best for their children, but situations can become complicated if your split was acrimonious or if you’re struggling to reach an agreement. Some parents are able to come to an unofficial custody agreement on their own, but others prefer to go down the legal route for added security.
A court can help parents reach a legally binding custody agreement, but many people prefer to settle out of court, as the process can be time consuming and stressful. There are also several different types of child custody and the type you choose will depend on individual circumstances. If you’re in the process of divorce and are worried about custody agreements or what happens next, read on for our introductory guide and find out how a solicitor could help.
Types of child custody
There are two main types of child custody; physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody determines where children live on a day to day basis, whereas legal custody determines who has the right to make decisions regarding children’s healthcare, schooling and general wellbeing. Custody can also be split into either joint or sole custody depending on the situation.
Most couples aim for joint physical and legal custody, which means that they both have an equal right to make legal decisions and children spend equal time at each parent’s residence. In some cases one parent might have sole physical custody, but joint legal custody is in place to allow the other to have a say in the child’s upbringing.
Who gets custody?
There are many factors involved when it comes to making a custody decision, but courts will always focus on the best interests of the child. Key factors are taken into consideration, including the parent child relationship, lifestyle, parent’s mental and physical health, their ability to provide for the child, and the child’s preference. Established routines may also be taken into account, for example if one parent moves away, it might make more sense to give sole physical custody to the remaining parent so that children’s schooling isn’t disrupted.
In the majority of cases, an agreement will be reached which allows both parents to spend significant amounts of time with their child, unless one parent is abusive, absent or unfit to parent for any reason.
How to reach an agreement
Some couples will be able to reach an agreement by themselves, but unfortunately this isn’t always possible. A solicitor can help you navigate the process and come to an agreement about all practical aspects, such as childcare and child maintenance payments. They can also put you in touch with services like family mediation, which can help you come to an agreement in a safe, neutral setting.
If you really can’t agree or if one parent is making things difficult, you may need to go to court. A court agreement can set out legally binding arrangements, including how much child support needs to be paid and how much time children spend with each parent. You can go straight to court for help and advice if your ex partner is abusive and they can put extra protections in place if necessary, such as a restraining order.
If you need professional help with child custody agreements, get in touch with the experts at Richards & Lewis. Our family law team is on hand to help support you every step of the way and we can help you come to an arrangement that’s best for all parties. From schooling and physical custody arrangements to what happens if one parent wants to move abroad, we can help you navigate it all, so give us a call today or visit our website.