Child Custody

Parting ways with your partner can be one of the most stressful and overwhelming experiences you’ll ever have. Bring children affairs into the picture and matters become even more complicated.

One of the most important decisions you’ll face during this period is how you’ll continue sharing parenting responsibilities despite the split. It’s at this stage that you’ll hear terms like “child custody” and “child visitation”. 

But what do they really mean, and how do they differ? This guide will put these questions to rest. 

What’s Child Custody?

Simply put, child custody is the legal agreement that lays down the rules as to how your children will be taken care of post-divorce.

Depending on your situation, it might be smart to consult a trusted ally in family law in Arizona or others close to you. Their wisdom can go great lengths towards helping you get a custody plan that works well for both of you and your children. 

But before you reach out to them, here are the options to consider:

Types of Child Custody Arrangements

Here are the different types of arrangements:

Sole Custody (Physical & Legal)

When it comes to sole custody, either you or your ex-partner gets the primary responsibility for raising the child. If the court grants you this, it means that the child lives with you most of the time (physical custody).

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Also, it’ll mean that you get the sole authority to make major decisions about the child’s life (legal custody). Courts typically award sole custody when there are concerns about the other parent’s ability to provide a safe environment for the child due to a history of abuse or neglect, substance abuse problems, or unstable living situation.

Joint Custody

This is where both you and your ex-partner share some level of responsibility for raising the child. This means the child splits their time between both parents’ homes, often in some kind of schedule (e.g., weekdays with one parent, weekends with the other). 

But keep in mind that “equal” doesn’t always mean 50/50. The exact schedule will depend on factors like the child’s age, your work schedules, and distance between homes.

Also, you get to share the financial responsibility for bringing up the kids. That means a lighter burden. Despite the fact that you are no longer together, joint custody also allows for cooperation. That’s good for everyone.

Other options worth looking into include split custody, where children live with different parents during the week (e.g., weekdays with mom, weekends with dad) but also have one primary residence for school or other purposes.

At the end of the day, the best custody arrangement is the one that prioritizes the child’s well-being and ensures they have a stable and loving environment in which to grow.

Child Visitation Rights

The court denying you custody doesn’t necessarily spell an end to the relationship with your child or participation in their lives. Child visitation rights are still an option to explore. 

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This is defined as the non-custodial parent’s scheduled time with the child.

Courts consider several factors when determining visitation schedules:

Age of the Child

Younger children typically need more frequent and shorter visits, while teenagers may handle longer, less frequent visits.

Parents’ Location

If you and your ex-partner live far apart, visitation might be less frequent, but involve longer stays.

Child’s Best Interests

If there’s a factor that carries weight, it’s this one. The court will consider the child’s emotional well-being, school schedule, extracurricular activities, and relationship with each parent before making the decision.

Your Work Schedules

The court will try to create a schedule that accommodates both parents’ work commitments while maximizing the child’s time with each parent.

Prior Custody Agreements

If there’s an existing custody agreement in place, the court will likely consider it, unless, of course, there’s a reason to modify it.

Supervised Visitation

In some cases, the court may order supervised visitation. This means a neutral third party, like a family therapist or social worker, will be present during the child’s visits with the noncustodial parent. 

This is often the case if there are concerns about the child’s safety, such as:

  • A history of abuse or neglect by the parent
  • A parent with a substance abuse problem
  • The child expressing fear or anxiety about being alone with the parent

Visitation schedules are not set in stone. They can be modified over time as the child’s needs and circumstances change.

In Closing

Knowing the distinction between child custody and child visitation rights is the first step towards ensuring a fair resolution to your family’s affairs post divorce. If you’re conflicted about the right decision to make, talk to your lawyer. They can share inputs that may guarantee a fair resolution and peace of mind for all parties during this difficult time.