Groups » Know the Answers to Six Commonly Asked Questions About Child Custody

Getting a divorce may not always be a preferable choice for married couples; however, if the relationship isn't working, then a divorce can reduce the hardships. It is often emotionally draining, time-consuming, and an expensive matter. Divorce can become even more challenging when children are involved, and the question of their custody arises.

Lawsuits related to child custody are generally dealt with by family courts. The court weighs several factors before officially handing over the child to one of the parents. These factors help determine who the primary caretaker will be, who will get the physical custody of the child, and who is more capable of taking care of the child after divorce.

The child's age is also important in such matters, as being permanently away from one of the parents can gravely impact his/her psyche. Courts, therefore, evaluate each parent's history, background, home stability, and financial standing before finalizing this.

It is imperative that both parents remain cordial and act sensibly throughout the legal proceedings for a smoother transition for their kid(s). Regardless of the type of custody, the child's best interests are central to any decision.

Here are the answers to some of the questions about child custody that are frequently asked by parents:

1. What Will Child Support Cover?

Whether or not the custodial parent is financially capable of taking the responsibility of the child after the divorce, the non-custodial parent needs to make child support payments. It is meant to cover a broad range of expenses that may come up during a child's upbringing. The amount is usually decided while keeping in mind the child's basic necessities, health insurance (if any), uninsured medical expenses, childcare, transportation, extracurricular activities, and college expenses.

In the United States, all 50 states have established child support guidelines to determine the amount of child support. Further, family courts hearing child custody cases take into consideration several factors, including the paying parent's income, the probable financial needs of the child, and the support needed to provide a good standard of living to the child.

2. What Falls under ‘Best Interest of the Child?'

In any custody case, the child's best interests are crucial when deciding which parent is going to be the custodian parent. Although best interest standards vary from state to state, the blanket rule that applies to all states is that the custody arrangement should best serve a child's emotional and physical needs.

Along with the arguments presented by both sides, the ruling judge will also consider the relationship and emotional bond that each parent shares with the child. To count a few, here are the important aspects about both parents that are relevant in a child custody case:

  • Their physical and emotional well-being
  • Educational background
  • Ability to provide a stable homely environment to the child
  • Job history and ability to financially support the child
  • The child's relationship with extended family members of each parent
  • If there are any ulterior motives of each parent to seek custody, and
  • If the parent has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect
Apart from these factors, a judge may also take into consideration any other criterion that is relevant to a child's best interests.

3. Is Joint Custody a Legal Option?

Each type of child custody is designed to ensure a good environment for the child's upbringing. If a parent is awarded sole custody by the court, then he/she has physical and legal custody of the child. The custodial parent holds the right to decide the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.

Under joint custody, the parents share legal custody, physical custody, or both. These arrangements may be difficult on the parents, especially if they aren't on good terms, as a great deal of cooperation and understanding is required on the part of both. However, joint custody is advantageous for the child since he/she can enjoy the company of both parents.

4. Can the Custodial Parent Move to Another State with the Child?

In cases where a parent is awarded the sole custody of the child, the parent cannot move to another state without informing the non-custodial parent and the court. Violating this rule can lead to a lawsuit against the custodial parent. This is primarily because relocation will interfere with the rights of the non-custodial parent. Further, moving out of the jurisdiction state without first obtaining the court's approval could jeopardize the parent's custody rights.

5. What Can Lead to Loss of Child Custody?

In child custody cases, the custodianship is awarded to the parent depending on his/her ability to meet the child's best interests, including emotional, economic, and social needs. A legal expert in St. Louis child custody enforcement cases stated, “The law requires both spouses (or parents) to strictly comply with the terms of the court's order. If one fails to meet his or her legal responsibilities, the other can seek enforcement through a motion for civil contempt.”

Losing child custody is more likely to happen when the parent has committed domestic violence or has been involved in drug usage. In such cases, a judge may grant the parent with only supervised visitation until he/she can prove that the child is safe in his/her care. These measures are taken only to protect the child from emotional setbacks.

Apart from supervised visitations, there are other limitations on parental rights that are valid for a lifetime. In most extreme cases of unlawful behavior, the parent can lose complete parental rights over his/her child. Such ruling is preferred only as a last resort, and provided when the termination of rights would serve the child's best interests.

6. What Happens If the Custodial Parent Dies?

If, in the future, the custodial parent dies, the state laws can award the custody to the other parent over a non-parent. In such a scenario, the non-custodial parent needs to submit a formal application to the court for modifying the original decree, stating the details, and seeking permission to assume legal custodianship of the child.

Divorced parents may try to find ways to gain custodial rights by taking more credit than they deserve or by blaming the co-parent for hardships faced by the child. They need to realize that, above all, the child's best interests should be borne in mind to provide him/her with a good upbringing. Family courts try to look beyond the arguments presented and prioritize the child's well-being when deciding on custody cases. Parents should accept what's best for the child, and treat custody as a chance to exhibit good parenting skills.

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