Here’s an article from fellow attorney Todd Spodek.
During divorce proceedings, couples often live in separate residences. When the divorce agreement involves joint custody, there can be one parent who is designated as the primary custodial parent. This is the parent who spends the most time with their child or children. A custody arrangement could involve a child or children spending the week with one parent, and the weekends with the other. The parent who cares for the child or children during the week would be considered the primary custodial parent.
Choosing Primary Custodial Parent
It is common during a divorce for the primary custodial parent to also have legal custody of the child or children. This gives them the legal authority to make any legal decision involving the child or children. When a court wants to determine which parent should be the primary custodial parent, it will attempt to determine what is in the best interest of the child or children. A court will choose the parent who is best able to serve the needs of the child or children. A court will examine the mental and physical capacities of each parent. If either parent has a criminal record or any history involving the neglect or abuse of the child or children, it will be taken into consideration. The court will look at the nature of the relationship between the child or children and parents. The financial background, as well as the parent’s ability to care for the child, or children, will be factors in the court’s decision.
Arrangements that involve true joint custody are very rare. This is because they can cause the child or children and parents personal difficulties. It could cause a serious disruption to a child’s or children’s routine as well as stress from constantly changing households and more. It is possible for two parents to agree on a schedule where a child or children live with each parent one month at a time. They may also agree on how to handle their child or children’s legal issues.
Joint Legal Custody
In this situation, both parents share the right to determine how a child or children will be raised. These types of decisions involve important aspects of a child’s welfare. This could be medical as well as religious decisions and more. In this arrangement, it’s common for the court to grant physical custody to one parent, but joint legal custody for both. When this is the case, the parent with physical custody agrees to work with the other parent when it comes to all major child-rearing issues.
Changing Primary Custodial Parent
It is natural over time for the needs of a child or children to change. It is also common for one parent’s ability to provide financial or other types of support to diminish. These are situations that could cause the court to alter primary custody from one parent to the other. It’s also possible for a court to assign custody to a completely different individual. These types of changes for a child or children will have a major impact on their life. In order for this change to happen, it will require additional court hearings.
Determining Joint Custody
It will be up to the court to determine if joint custody is in the best interest of the child or children. It may not matter if only one parent wants joint custody. The court will look at the details of a situation and determine what it thinks is best for the child or children. The financial background and other personal information of each parent will be examined. The court will want to know if the parents have agreed to joint custody. They will assess the willingness of each parent to cooperate and communicate on issues concerning the welfare of their child or children. The court will also consider how close the parents live to one another, as well as the emotional and physical environment of each household and more.