If you and your spouse are separating, you might be thinking about the consequences of a divorce on your children. This is entirely natural and to be expected. If you are curious about child custody law and how a divorce lawyer may be able to represent you, then read on to learn more from the Law Offices of Shannon C. Smith.

Legal or physical custody of the child—which is which?

A parent who has physical custody of a child is in charge of running day-to-day care. Essentially, the parent with physical custody usually has the child live with them. Legal custody, on the other hand, simply grants a parent a say in making long-term decisions about the child, such as medical care, religious instruction, and education.

My ex and I were never married. Who will get custody?

When two parents separate who were never married in the first place, most states will award physical custody to the mother unless the father takes action to also receive custody. Typically, unmarried fathers have a harder time gaining custody of a child over a mother who is a good parent, but he will take priority over other relatives and foster care. In the end, it is likely that the father will be granted visitation rights.

Is it possible to figure out custody and visitation without involving the courts?

Absolutely. The two of you can figure out a system that works best outside of the court. You can do this during an informal negotiation (typically with attorney assistance) or through a mediation meeting. Typically, the court will have to finalize the agreement, but that step is more so a formality than an attempt to change your original agreement.

If the divorce goes to family court, how do judges decide who gets custody of a child?

The court considers a few different factors before making that decision, including what option is in the child’s best interests. They want to know who the primary caretaker is of the child currently. They will also ask the child what they would prefer if they are old enough to make that decision.

Can someone other than a parent get custody of the child?

Sometimes, people other than the parents can get custody. This includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and so on. Some places will refer to this situation as “guardianship” of a child, while others will consider this arrangement to be a “non-parental” or “third-party” custody.

Will grandparents have a legal right to visit their grandchildren?

Grandparents can absolutely enforce their legal right to visit their grandchildren if that right is being interfered with by one or both of the child’s parents. All 50 states have some sort of law that allows grandparents to visit their grandchildren, but gaining custody of them will be a little bit harder.

Law Offices of Shannon C. Smith—Divorce Attorney

If you are looking for legal representation as you seek custody of your child, then contact us. Child custody can be a difficult challenge for many divorcing parents, but seeking help elsewhere can ease a big burden. Reach out now for legal advice and representation.