Divorce, even when amicable, is rarely an easy process. When there are children involved, the issue of custody can be hotly contested and traumatic for both the children and parents. To minimize disruptions to your family life and streamline the process, take time to prepare for your child custody hearing. These are the factors recommended by Fort Collins child custody attorney Stephen Vertucci that every parent should take into consideration when coming to a child custody arrangement.
What Kind of Custody Arrangement Should I Choose?
Each family is unique, and your custody arrangement should reflect these unique needs. One of the first steps in the process, however, is to understand the different types of custody arrangement. For example, you may wish to choose an option in which both parents get to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing and welfare. On the other hand, you may think the other parent is unfit, in which case you would pursue sole custody of your child. It’s important to note that the law presumes joint custody is in the best interest of the child, unless you can prove otherwise.
Who Is the “Decision-Maker?”
In an out-of-court custody agreement, you and your partner will come to a custody decision yourselves, with input from your attorneys and mediators. There are several out of court options, such as mediation or working with a counselor. Some judges will require trying mediation before setting a custody hearing. In these situations, the parents are the decision makers: they decide, together, who will get custody of the children, and when. Both parents have a say in the upbringing and welfare of the children in question.
On the other hand, the courts may be the decision maker when you can’t come to an agreement yourselves. A family court judge will ultimately make a ruling on your custody arrangement based on a variety of factors, including the child’s “best interest.” If your child is old enough, they may have a say in where they want to go. Judges may also consider who is the “primary caretaker,” which focuses on direct care-taking responsibilities and the child’s psychological well-being.
The courts will not pay attention to your personal preferences – their sole concern is what is in the best interest of the child. They recognize that catering to a child’s personal preferences may not be in their best interest. The purpose of a custody arrangement is to minimize emotional distress for the child. Judges make custody decisions to encourage a child’s happiness, emotional security, mental health, and positive development into adulthood. Remember, the law presumes that a loving relationship with both parents is in the best interest of the child. Sole custody arrangements are reserved for situations in which custody with both parents would be an emotional detriment or danger to the child.
Custody disputes and visitation issues are most common in divorce, but there are a number of other situations in which custody may be a factor. For example, a parent may wish to have a custody arrangement when a couple is unmarried, or grandparents may wish to seek rights to visitation for their grandchildren. In rare cases, close relatives of a child who have a strong relationship may seek custody, when the courts deem both parents unfit.
In short, there are several situations in which child custody might be a factor. Preparation is the first step before arriving at any custody decision, court-determined or otherwise. Talk to your children about their preference and keep an open dialogue throughout the process. Keep things civil with your partner to sustain your child’s mental health and well-being. The divorce process is hard, but the right approach can minimize damage within the family and ensure both parents sustain a loving relationship with their children.