Your role as a parent does not end when your marriage does – neither does your former spouse’s. You both love and want what’s best for your children.
Once the divorce process has begun, you must decide on child custody and placement arrangements. The way you and your spouse handle these arrangements will have an enormous impact on how your child copes and their emotion well-being during and after your divorce is final.
The main assumption of child custody and placement laws is that the children will be the happiest and healthiest when they have good relationships with both parents. During the divorce process, the law requires the court to make provisions in the final judgment for parental decision-making and allocate periods of physical placement with each parent. In many cases, the parents will reach an agreement which the court approves.
There are legal processes and terminology in play throughout the process of creating a custody and placement agreement.
Legal custody gives you the legal right to make major decisions about your children. These decisions can include non-emergency health care, choice of school and religion. Other decisions can include parental consent to marry, obtain a driver’s licenses or join the military. There are additional matters that could also be major decisions, if the court determines so.
Legal custody could be sole or joint and differs from physical placement.
Joint legal custody is where both parents have equal rights to make major decisions about their children. Sole legal custody is where only one parent has the right to make major decisions about the children. The court may also order that one parent or the other have the sole right to make certain types of major decisions such as health care. The court will presume joint legal custody unless there is an agreement or a specific reason for the court to grant sole custody as in the case of domestic violence.
The court will consider the best interests of the children in determining custody and placement.
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Physical placement is the time your children are in each parent’s care. During physical placement, you will have the right to make routine daily decisions about your children’s care.
Most court orders will provide for a physical placement schedule of the times the children are to be with each parent.
No, the law does not give the parents equal placement. The law does provide that the children should have a schedule that allows them to have regularly occurring and meaningful periods of placement with each parent.
Routine daily decisions include bedtime, study time, diet, extracurricular activities, social activities and discipline. During placement time, the right to make routine daily decisions belongs to the parent when the children are with them. Any routine daily decisions made must be consistent with the major decisions provided in the legal custody provisions and must not break any laws about safety.
Children do best when their parents agree to similar rules and routines in both households, whatever the parents’ legal rights are. There are many daily decisions, such as extracurricular activities, that may overlap periods of placement and will require parental communication and coordination.
It will be helpful for everyone involved if you respect each other’s right to know about your children. Both parents have the right to know the children are safe and well cared for. The children benefit when their parents work well together.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement on their own, they must meet at least once with a mediator.
If you cannot reach an agreement through mediation, you must ask the court to make the decision. The court will appoint an attorney (called a guardian ad litem) to investigate and represent the best interests of your children.
Every parent has the right to their children’s school, medical and dental records (including report cards, notices of parent / teacher conferences, health notices, prescription information, and so on).
The decision to move with the children may have a major impact on your children and their relationship with each parent as well as on other aspects of the children’s lives such as school, extended family, and friends. Ittion before proceeding.
The procedures for resolving any issues about changing orders is the same procedure as for resolving original orders.
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