In situations where parents are divorcing, separating, or may have never been married, someone has to decide what happens to the kids. Courts have the option of choosing one of several types of custody. And although it may seem like a fairly straightforward decision, the courts weigh many factors as they consider what is in the best interests of the child. Temporary custody, joint custody, exclusive custody, and third-party custody are all options that the judge may consider in a given case.
Temporary custody is generally a short-term solution while the judge weighs the evidence and available options, often during a divorce or separation proceeding. Temporary custody can refer to but legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions for the child related to issues such as religious upbringing, education, etc.
In contrast, physical custody refers to where the child or children will live the majority of the time. As a divorce proceeding is taking place, one parent may be awarded temporary physical custody of the children while both maintain legal custody.
Joint Custody vs. Exclusive Custody
After the temporary custody decision has been made, a final custody agreement must be reached. In divorce proceedings, parents are usually arguing for either joint custody or exclusive custody. Joint custody grants the parents equal rights in making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Both parents have a right to custody of their children, so the default choice by the courts would be joint custody unless either parent can prove that this is not in the best interests of the children.
Exclusive custody endows one parent with all custody rights to the exclusion of the other parent. If a parent wants exclusive custody of their children, he or she must prove to the court that the child would be best off without the other parent and that the other parent is unable to fulfill their parental duties. In many cases, the parent who is not awarded exclusive custody will still be allowed visits, either supervised or unsupervised.
Another option the court considers in custody decisions is third-party custody, which is when custody is awarded to someone other than the parents. This is often done when neither parents are deemed fit to perform parental duties and a family member petitions the court for custodial rights. Once awarded, this person is able to make decisions for the child and retains all parental rights.
Custody decisions are difficult for everyone, making it particularly important to seek legal counsel with experience in these matters to provide guidance at this emotional and challenging time.
Custody arrangements and disputes can be a stressful time, but an experienced family law attorney can make the process more bearable. Contact the Maryland based attorneys at the Law Firm of Annapolis today for service in English or Spanish with child custody issues.