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The myth of “full custody”

As a parent who is going through divorce, one of your biggest concerns may be over the custody of your child. It can seem strange and upsetting to consider the possibility of not seeing your child every day. You may also bristle at the thought of agreeing to a child custody compromise. However, it is important to recognize that you will likely end up sharing some form of joint child custody with your ex-spouse.

Parents and children often benefit when parents work together to find a mutually agreeable child custody option. Usually, a compromise between parents involves some form of joint custody. When parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own, a judge will decide on the custody arrangement. However, even when a judge decides, you may likely end up with joint custody of your children.

A judge could award sole or joint custody

Sole child custody, sometimes called full custody, means that one parent is responsible for providing the child’s care and has the authority to make child rearing decisions. Joint child custody generally means that both parents help raise the child, but joint custody can look different from situation to situation.

Joint custody could mean that both parents share the authority to make child rearing decisions, called legal custody, and share the responsibility to provide physical care for the child, called physical custody. However, joint custody could mean that only one parent has legal custody, but the parents share physical custody. It could also mean that both parents have legal custody, but only one parent has physical custody. A judge can award any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody.

A childs best interests usually determine custody arrangements

A judge will prioritize the best interests of your child when determining what child custody arrangement to award. When determining what a child’s best interests are, a judge can consider any relevant factors.

Some common considerations include:

  • The child’s physical and mental condition
  • Each parent’s physical and mental condition
  • The relationship each parent has with the child
  • Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
  • The likelihood of each parent supporting the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The ability of each parent to cooperate to resolve disputes about the child
  • Any history of domestic abuse

A judge can award sole custody or any form of joint custody. However, maintaining frequent and continuing contact with both parents is usually in a child’s best interests. To benefit the child, judges usually award some form of joint custody and encourage parents to share child-rearing responsibilities. Sole custody is usually reserved for situations involving a parent who is unfit to care for or make decisions regarding the child.

If you are divorcing your child’s other parent, do not expect that divorce will eliminate the need to interact with your spouse. It is probably safe to consider sole custody a myth, and assume that you will probably need to at least be on speaking terms with your ex-spouse, so you two can effectively implement some form of joint custody.

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