When you have kids and you get divorced, part of the divorce settlement will include custody of the kids. It may seem straightforward in terms of custody, full custody means one parent has the children all the time and joint custody means the parents share time. But in reality, it’s not quite that cut and dry.
There are actually several different types of custody, including legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and joint custody. Legal custody gives parents the right to have input about their kids’ upbringing. When parents share legal custody, both parents are entitled to input regarding discipline, schooling, and religion, among other things.
Physical custody states which parent the children live with. In many cases, one parent will have physical custody of the kids and the other parent will have visitation rights. For both types of custody, legal and physical, it can be awarded as sole custody or joint custody. Often times now, courts make every effort to involve both parents in the custody rights of children of divorce… unless of course one parent is declared unfit.
And joint custody has lots of gray area. Here are some facts about joint custody:
1. Either parent can legally make a decision concerning the children without input from the other parent. Of course, failing to communicate properly can cause more problems and ex spouses should try to communicate about important issues to avoid going back to court.
2. Neither parent can take the children and move away from the other parent unless they can prove to the court that it is in the best interest of the children to make the move. This provision is set in place to protect the parent who has visitation rights from essentially losing those rights because the parent who the kids live with decides to move away.
3. If your ex is required to pay child support and does not, you cannot legally withhold visits with your children. Visitation rights are considered to be separate from child support payments and not interdependent. Vice versa, you cannot refuse to pay child support because your ex is withholding visitations.
4. If either parent wishes to change the custody situation, they will have to either go back to court or reach a new agreement through mediation. Courts and mediators will usually require the parent to show that circumstances have changed considerably and that there is good reason for the custody change request.