When you are considering divorce, child custody is often a concern. There are various arrangements for the custody of your child and in Illinois, the best interests of the child plays prominently. Decisions about who has the legal authority to make decisions for the child and where the child will reside are important concerns.
Physical custody translates into where the child will physically live. If a parent has been granted physical custody, that parent has the right to have the child live with him or her. In some states, an award of joint physical custody is possible so a child can stay with both the mother and father for lengthy periods, but is typically awarded only when the parents of the child live relatively close to each other to reduce the impact on the child. Sole physical custody results in the child living primarily with one parent, while the other parent has limited visitation or custody rights.
Joint and Sole ‘Legal’ Custody
Legal custody grants the legal authority to make decisions about a child’s education, health and general upbringing. The parent with legal custody can make decisions such as where the child will attend school, what religion the child will practice, and the medical care he of she will receive. Legal custody is often granted jointly, but sometimes a parent is awarded sole legal custody if it is in the best interests of the child.
Many states regularly award joint legal custody after a divorce. This means that parents will have to cooperate and make joint decisions about their child’s upbringing. It is not unheard of for one parent to exclude the other from the decision-making process despite having joint custody, landing them in contempt of court. In this case, a parent can request that the court enforce the joint legal custody order.
Sole legal custody grants the right to make important life decisions on behalf of the children to ‘one’ parent only. A judge may grant both legal and physical custody to one parent if the other parent is a detriment to the child’s best interests. A parent that is absent, unwilling or unable to participate in making decisions on behalf of the child, emotionally, mentally or physically abusive, addicted to or abusing substances, or other issues may not receive physical or legal custody of the child. Sometimes, one parent may be living with a new partner that may be deemed unfit to care for the child and that may factor into the custody determination, also.
In some cases, there may be a mingling of the custody provisions. Sole physical custody may be awarded to one parent, while awarding joint legal custody to both. A court may order enhanced visitation rights to the parent without physical custody, despite awarding the other parent sole physical custody. The determination clearly rests on what is in the best interests of the child after considering the unique circumstances of the family. Of course, if there are changes in the circumstances the original child custody order was based on, it is possible to modify the child custody order to serve the child’s best interests.
Joint Custody Arrangements
By and large, most parents will find themselves sharing custody of their children and will have to make a workable plan. When parents share joint physical custody of a child, they will often draw up a joint custody arrangement. This arrangement is based upon the parents’ work schedules, the child’s school schedule as well as other needs of the child. For parents that live close together, this may translate into rotating weekends or months, since attendance at the regular school is not an issue. If parents reside father apart, parents may elect to split holidays or summer vacations. Some custody arrangements allow the child to remain in the family home while the parents move in and out according to a set schedule. This can be beneficial to the children to avoid shifting between two homes.
The advantages of joint custody are clear. Children are able to maintain a relationship with both parents and their parents get to share in the many responsibilities of raising a child, which can be burdensome to one. However, joint custody arrangements can have a downside also. Shuffling the kids back and forth, working together with an ex-spouse, the financial strain of maintaining two households and sharing child-related costs equitably will undoubtedly take patience and fortitude to make it work.
If you have questions regarding child custody or support in a divorce proceeding, contact the Law Offices of Ronald L. Bell, PC. We will listen to your concerns regarding the custody of your children and help you get a favorable arrangement to meet the best interests of your children. Call today!