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If children are involved, one of the most difficult issues of your divorce may be deciding who will have custody of them. It is important to develop a plan with your spouse that will lay out the details of your children's custody. Having the courts or a judge who is essentially a stranger to your family make this decision on your behalf can lead to dissatisfying results.
The more details you can work out with your spouse, the smoother your divorce will proceed. If possible, develop a plan that outlines who will be responsible for your children on a daily basis and how you will deal with scheduling, special occasions, and holidays. Be sure to include details about your children's medical care, schooling, and religious upbringing. If your children are old enough (usually around 12 years of age or older), it may be prudent to consult them in regards to what living arrangement would be preferable; however, it is not a good idea to force your children to make a decision, or to impose guilt trips on them. Courtroom custody battles can be arduous for the following reasons:
Overview of your Options
Below is the definition of a few key terms that will help you understand what is involved:
What the Courts will Base their Decision On
The Courts' primary concern is your children's well being. If your children are mature enough, the Courts may consider their living preferences. Each circumstance is different, but the Courts prefer that both parents maintain an active involvement in their children's lives. The Courts generally grant joint legal custody to the parents in order to care for their schooling, medical, and other legal needs. Sole physical custody is generally granted to the parent who is most actively involved in caring for the children, while reasonable or generous visitation rights are granted to the other spouse. The past here often foretells the future: i.e., the parent who was actively involved with the children during the marriage most likely will stay involved in the future as a single parent.
A sample visitation schedule may be one in which the non-custodial parent spends time with the children every other weekend, one day during each week, and on certain special occasions. If both parents live relatively close to each other (i.e., in the same school district) and there exists a high degree of cooperation between the spouses, the Courts may award joint physical custody in which a living schedule will be arranged for the children.
The Courts generally disapprove of any activities that may have a negative effect on the children. For example, one spouse appears to unreasonably restrict the other spouse from visiting with the children. Some parents feel that the "children are mine," which is incorrect. The Courts will restrict visitation for acts of misconduct like abuse, drugs, neglect, criminal activities, etc.
Caution: If the relationship between you and your spouse has reached a point where you feel moving out is an immediate priority, be aware that leaving your children behind may affect your chances of obtaining physical custody. It is highly advisable that you contact an attorney before leaving your children with the other spouse, or removing the children from the house with you. A temporary court order is usually required to remove your children from their home. If you feel your children are in danger of physical harm, contact the appropriate authorities and an attorney. You can set up an initial consultation by contacting Mr. Wernicke at (714) 558-8841.
Relocating your Children
The Courts generally require 30 days' prior written notice if a parent plans to change your children's location. The Courts generally will not grant custody to a parent who is moving the children simply to cause emotional hurt to the non-custodial spouse. A spouse who relocates for a different job, or intends to re-marry a person in another area, may be granted the right to move with the children after requesting Court approval. Again, each circumstance is different, and there are actions Mr. Wernicke can take to help.
The Effects of Child Custody on your Taxes
If your children do not live with you more than 50% of the time, you cannot file for a "Head of Household" credit, unless the Court orders that you may.
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Still have questions? Call: (714) 558-8841
|© 2005 Peter H. Wernicke - Family Law :: Divorce :: Child Support :: Child Custody :: Domestic Violence :: Civil Litigation|
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