If going through a divorce were not difficult enough, the parties involved must also face the realities of child custody. Most have no idea how to best protect their children from the worst effects of dealing with two households. Deep down, they are terrified of losing a relationship with the children they love. Some of them worry needlessly
What are some of the myths surrounding child custody?
Parents and Lost Custody
Some parents believe that if they are the ones who left the household, they automatically lose the right to their children. As a result, some don’t even try for custody. The fact is, both the custodial and non-custodial parent have shared custody until the matter is settled by a court order. Parents who for whatever reason have not been overly involved with their children may also believe they won’t be given a second chance to see them. In such a case, the court will likely introduce said parent gradually back into the children’s lives. A parent may present the court with proof of employment or completion of parenting classes to prove willingness to honor his or her responsibility.
Depending on the circumstances, this may begin with short, supervised visitations, and, if successful, will increase in length to unsupervised visits.
Parents and Legal Representation
Parents who worry about losing custody or visitation rights may not think that they need an attorney. Although the law allows them to represent themselves, a parent who is at risk of losing their rights to see their children should seek assistance of an attorney. This is a complex area with high stakes involved.
However, the lack of an attorney should not prevent a parent from going through the legal process. Many parents do not realize that they can represent themselves. Or that they can arrive at an amicable custody arrangement on their own. An attorney, however, is advisable if the parents cannot agree.
Once Custody is Determined, the Order is Final
Parents may be under the impression that once the court rules on custody, the matter is written in stone and cannot be changed or adjusted. That is not true. An experienced family law attorney can present evidence that can have the initial ruling overturned. For example, a parent whose visitations were limited due to alcohol addiction may have visitations increased by presenting proof of continued sobriety.
Mothers Usually Get Custody
This myth held true in the past, and it may be preventing fathers from pursuing custody of their children. However, courts are no longer considering gender when determining custody. The court looks at all aspects of how the children are being raised and usually finds that the presence of both parents in the children’s lives is of greatest benefit to them. The financial status of either parent is also not a determining factor.
What About Compromise?
Some people believe that agreeing to any compromise is a sign of weakness. Courts, however, view the willingness to compromise for the sake of the children as a positive trait and may lean toward the compromising parent when deciding on custody.
Parents Must Pay Child Support In Order to See Their Children
The courts will certainly attempt to enforce child support. However, the lack of payment will not deprive the non-paying parent of visitation rights. From the court’s point of view, this would be punishing the children instead of the deadbeat parent.
Custody Involves Both Physical and Legal Custody
Parents may believe that the custodial parent automatically gets both legal and physical custody. However, a judge may decide that it is in the best interest of the children to provide one parent with physical custody while legal custody – making legal decisions about the children, such as health matters or schooling – may go to the non-custodial parent or will be shared by both parents equally. Physical and legal custody are two separate issues.
Parents Are Entitled To See Their Children
Some parents are under the impression that the mere fact of parenthood gives them the right to their children. However, the court will rule in the best interest of the child and may decide that certain parents do not have a right to their children. This may happen in the case of previous abuse. On the other hand, parents will always have obligation to their minor children.
Children May Decide Which Home They Want to Live In
No law permits a child to determine which parent it wants to live with. The court will, however, listen to children and consider their wishes, especially older children who may persuade the court to change the original parenting agreement. Reports from a family counselor can help the court decide home is best for the child.
The Wealthier Parent Is Responsible For Child Support Payment
Both parents have a financial obligation to the children. The court has its own formula to assess the fairest amount for both. A lot of factors come into play; however, the amount of overnights the child has with one parent over the other has a great impact on the amount of support to be paid.
The Custodial Parent is Allowed to Move the Children
Many custodial parents may wish to relocate following a divorce, either for improved employment opportunities or simply to be closer to family. However, the custody agreement must be adhered to as it is legally binding. The custodial parent cannot relocate and deprive the non-custodial parent of visitations without having the court modify the existing agreement.
Child custody issues are complicated. But the courts will invariably attempt to rule in the best interest of the child. This means that any parent who tries and shows fitness and willingness will be considered for custody, and usually, only extreme cases may limit a parent’s custody or visitation. An experienced family attorney can be of tremendous assistance.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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