Legal cases that involve the custody of a child or children can be some of the most challenging and emotional cases for a lawyer as it usually involves trying to find an acceptable middle ground between divorcing parents and the well-being of their children. An attorney who handles child custody cases knows that this is a difficult time for all involved and advises that middle ground can only be found when both sides work together and have a clear vision of what is being sought. With different types of care and visitation options, it is essential for parents to know what can and cannot be done prior to participating in a custody hearing.
Before being able to differentiate between other custodial regulations and limitations, parents or guardians must know the difference between the two main types of child custody – physical and legal.
- Physical – Physical rights are those that determine where a child will physically live most of the time. Also known as residential custody, this has only to do with physical location and not at all with decision-making for that child.
- Legal – Legal custody deals with who is responsible for decision-making concerning a child. It is possible for a child to be under the physical supervision of one parent and the legal supervision of the other, although in this type of situation it is likely that legal status would be held by both parents.
Sole and Joint Custody
When a child lives exclusively with one parent and not the other, that parent is said to have sole physical custody. If children spend part of the time living with one parent and part living with the other, this is considered joint physical custody. Concerning legal responsibility, an attorney who handles child custody advises that the procedure is almost the same. Sole legal responsibility means one parent has sole power to make decisions for a child while joint means decisions are made by both parents for the benefit of the child.
A different type of joint physical supervision that a lawyer calls Bird’s Nest Custody involves an arrangement where children live in the same home all the time while the parents take turns living with them. The benefit of this is that there is much less disruption in the lives and schedules of the children. Legal supervision of such arrangements is typically the same as it would be in any other living situation.
Visitation becomes important when one parent has sole physical care of children; it provides a means for the other parent to spend time with them.
- Unsupervised – Unsupervised visitation allows the non-custodial parent to take children to their home, go on outings, and otherwise take children away from the custodial home as agreed upon by both parents or the court.
- Supervised – Supervised visitation is when a non-custodial parent is required to visit with children while in the presence of the custodial parent, a trusted family member to supervise the visit, or a court-appointed social worker. Joint care arrangements relieve the concern of visitation in most cases, as parents each get to live with the children during certain times while the other does the rest of the time.
- Virtual – What has become more popular today is virtual visitation that allows a non-custodial parent to visit with the children online through video chat such as Skype; online chat and emailing also falls under this category.
A child custody attorney recommends that couples who are considering divorce research that state’s child custody laws that are relative to their particular situation. There are many different rules that both parents must follow including the ability to take children over state lines or even a certain distance away from the other parent depending on the type of custody. Above all, a law firm would remind parents that these rules are in place to protect children and provide them the benefit of still having two parents despite any type of separation having occurred. For this process to be handled as smoothly as possible for any involved children, it would be helpful for parents to seek the advice of a lawyer who handles divorce and family law issues and can explain all available child custody options.
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520