Child custody doesn’t always have to be a contentious issue. A joint custody agreement can allow both parents to share an equal amount of time with their children and take part in all major decisions concerning their upbringing. These types of arrangements are generally favored by courts, and they can work very well in certain cases. Importantly, when parents have joint custody, a child can benefit significantly by having both parents involved in their life and being able to foster a relationship with each of them.
It's essential to understand that there are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. While legal custody refers to who will have decision-making authority for the children, physical custody determines where and with whom they will live. Specifically, legal custody addresses schooling, religious upbringing, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and other aspects concerning a child's daily life.
Physical and legal custody can be joint — and belong to both parents — or sole and given to only one. Alternatively, physical custody can be sole and legal custody can be joint or vice versa. Child custody orders can be very specific depending on the needs of your family. When physical custody is not joint, the parent with whom the children do not live will have visitation rights.
Parents can work together to come to an agreement regarding the best custody arrangement for their children, either between themselves or with the help of mediation. If they cannot reach an amicable resolution to their custody issue, a court will decide the outcome. Significantly, California courts do not favor either the mother or father — child custody is based on what is in the children's best interests.
A judge will look at a number of factors in deciding the best interests of a child to determine whether joint custody is appropriate. They will evaluate the child's age, the health of the parents, the emotional ties between the child and the parents, and each parent's ability to care for the child. Any history of substance abuse or family violence will also be considered.
Although judges typically prefer joint custody, it may not be appropriate in every case. For instance, if a parent refuses to cooperate or both parents cannot communicate effectively, a joint custody arrangement may not work. Joint custody may also be inappropriate in cases involving abuse or neglect.
Joint custody agreements usually work best when:
Significantly, a joint custody agreement does not always mean a 50/50 split; this might work well for some families, but others may divide parenting time differently. What's most important is that your child gets to spend quality time with each parent. A judge will review your agreement before issuing an order to ensure it will meet your child's needs.
If you and the other parent agree to joint custody, it is necessary to make a parenting time schedule that allows your child to spend a substantial amount of time with each of you. There is no specific formula regarding parenting time. Rather, a wide variety of factors should be considered when putting together a parenting plan. School schedules, parents' work schedules, and extracurricular activities can all be outlined in a joint custody schedule.
Parents may choose to alternate weeks, or every two weeks. For some families, alternating weekends might work best. Other arrangements can allow a child to live with one parent for four days and the other for three days. Midweek evening visits can also be added to a parenting time schedule if the parents live close enough to each other.
If your child primarily lives with one parent, the other can be given additional parenting time on weekends, holidays, and school vacations. If it is not possible to spend time together in person, a parent can also be given contact through FaceTime, phone, email, and texting. Sometimes, it’s crucial to be creative when developing a parenting time schedule, especially when extracurricular activities and a parent's work schedule can get in the way.
Child custody matters can be emotional and overwhelming, even when both parents are amicable. If you are facing a child custody issue, it's best to have an experienced family law attorney on your side who can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights. Providing skilled representation and adept advocacy, The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks works diligently to achieve positive results for every client and ensure the best interests of their children are met.
The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been assisting clients throughout Fresno and the surrounding area in their divorce and family law matters for more than 20 years. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559)222-4891.