When determining child custody, there are two types of issues the court has to address. They have to determine the legal custody, as well as the physical custody of the child.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
Legal custody deals with the type of arrangement the parents are going to follow. In a joint legal custody arrangement both parties are on equal footing and both are entitled to equal access to the child as well as to any information pertaining to the child in the areas of education, health, and other issues. Both parties are equal in the aspect of making long term plans and decisions, and neither of them have superior rights to the other in the decision making process.
There are hybrid versions of joint legal custody which have tie breakers provisions in which one parent would have a tie breaking authority, should a concise decision not be reached. If joint custody is not feasible, sole custody can be awarded to one parent. The parent who is granted sole custody is granted all decision making responsibilities of the child. When examining the two types of custody arrangements, joint or sole, you’re really dealing with a democracy (joint) versus a dictatorship (sole).
The other part of custody that the courts have to determine is physical custody. Joint physical custody is divided or shared custody between the parties, where the child would share periods of time with each parent which may or may not equal 50/50. Under joint physical custody arrangements, parents may divide the time in weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly bases or any other combination thereof.
The Factors Considered When Determining Custody
When the courts are determining if joint legal custody is a viable option, they will evaluate the taylor factors. These factors include:
- Capacity of parents to communicate and reach shared decisions effecting the child’s welfare
- Willingness of the parents to share custody
- Fitness of the parents
- Relationship established between the child and each parent
- Preference of the child
- Potential disruption of the child’s social and school life
- Geographic proximity of the parental homes
- Demands of parental employment
- Age and number of children
- Sincerity of the parent’s requests
- Financial status of the parents
- Impact on state or federal assistance
- Benefit to the parents
- And other factors
How Joint Custody Works
The focus in a joint custody determination is on the same overarching goal of any other custody determination. This is to make the decision in the best interest of the child. Often times the courts will decide to give the parents joint legal custody, but will give one parent primary physical custody based on the circumstances of the case. At all times, the standard is what is in the best interest of the child.
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