Divorce is a horrible thing for any family. It’s hard on the parents who go through it, but even harder on the children.
Making things worse is the fact that parents have to come-up with some type of custody agreement that will map out things like, visitation schedules and living arrangements, who will make the legal decisions, holiday schedules, how contact with family and friends will be handled, and if necessary how any changes to the agreement will be dealt with. A child custody agreement is usually resolved voluntarily and informally, out-of-court between parents settling disputes over custody issues with the best interest of the child in mind.
When marriage ends in divorce, children get caught in the middle. It's inevitable. Children will be hurt not only emotionally but psychologically as well. To reduce the amount of trauma that children will experience parents need to make the divorce as friendly as possible. Giving a great deal of thought and consideration when deciding on terms of an agreement that best serve the children, their changing needs and each other. Be sure to research your Child Custody Rights!
This is why it’s a good idea to look over a child custody agreement that has worked and model their own agreement after these. Not every situation is the same but you needn't reinvent the wheel. Custody arrangements created from realistic and fair negotiations result in a workable agreement.
Note: When considering - the best interest of the child - the court uses the following criteria: (in no particular order)
The health and age of the child/children (special needs)
Family history with regards to substance abuse and/or violence
The child/children's ties to their school, community, and home
Emotional ties to their parents
Parents capacity to provide and care for the child/children
Social and lifestyle factors of the parent
Preference of the children
There are two types of custody that a parent might have. The first is called “physical custody.” The parent who provides day-to-day care for the child (or children) is said to have this type of custody. The parent who has “legal custody” is given the rights and responsibilities to make legal decisions regarding the welfare of the child/children.
There are four major types of child custody arrangements that parents can agree to. These are shared custody, joint custody, split custody, and primary physical custody.
A Shared custody agreement involves both parents completely sharing in the responsibilities of their children. Equal time would be spent with each parent. In addition, each parent not only share physical custody but legal custody as well. Everything would be split fifty/fifty.
Joint custody designates both parents being awarded custody by the court for their children. Joint legal custody refers to sharing equally in the legal decisions regarding their welfare, each with access to any and all of their children’s records; health, education, etc. Joint physical custody specifies that both parents share in housing and providing care for the children. So in this type of child custody agreement it's possible for the children to live with one parent but both parents join in making decisions for the best of the children.
Split custody is another child custody agreementthat can be arranged. With this type of agreement, custodies for the children are divided between the parents. An example might be; if there are three children, one parent might get two of the children, while the other parent may get one child. Usually this type of agreement is reached when parents decide that it’s best for the girls to go with the mother and best for the boys to go with the father. The children would then be split accordingly. Of course, parents could decide to split the custody based on other criteria such as age, temperament, etc.
Finally, with an agreement that has primary physical custody or Sole physical custody, the children live with that parent full time but even when this custody arrangement is awarded often the parent’s share in joint legal custody and the decisions related to the children. Usually the other parent will be able to visit at will or on a set schedule under a child visitation agreement. This type of custody generally has been awarded when one parent is judged unfit. Nowadays sole custody is being awarded less and less. To protect oneself, it is advisable to become familiar with all the child visitation laws of your state.
It's often difficult for parents to agree on a child custody agreement. With that in mind, and since divorce is already very hard on the children, parents should make every effort to avoid a custody battle and try to work out terms in a written agreement that provide for the ever changing needs of the children.