Divorce and Child Custody

In an era where out of every three married couples, two decide to split up and divorce, the question of proper care and growing-up of the children from such a broken wedlock, is indeed a challenge. Divorce automatically, means separating and going different ways. So, who will take care of the children, and more importantly, with whom will the children be with for the rest of their lives (till they reach adulthood) are some of the questions?

Main Concern: Child Custody after Divorce

It should be noted that as divorce emerges from incompatible relationships which had turned bitter and maybe, even bordered on violence, the entire concern of the Courts is generally, to provide the best arrangement for the well-being of the child. The “best interests of the child” are something that the Courts seek. Hence, a positive atmosphere must prevail while child custody cases are dealt with after the divorce proceedings.

When does the Court step in?

We all agree now that divorce is a legally bound issue with custody of the child being an important matte for serious consideration. The Court steps in if the parent with whom the child custody lies, to be unfit due to alcoholism or abusive behaviour. Apart from these, issues concerning legal guardianship, legal residency and visitations are reasons enough for a court interference. Also, if the attorney of a parent files a petition with the court seeking justice in the matter of child-custody, the Court duly obliges and pursues to arrive at a legal physical custody.

Responsibility of the Court

In all cases, the Courts in USA decide, with which parent the custody of the child would belong after the divorce. The Court also assumes the entire responsibility of the final custody decision and hence, absolves the child of any feeling of guilt that may havoc the child’s life in later years.

The Court may allow the child to decide the parent he/she may choose to live with, depending on the child’s age. In majority of cases, arrangements are made to avoid separating the siblings in such divorce cases.

Who will have the custody?

During the divorce proceedings involving children, partners generally find themselves embroiled in child custody issues. There are broadly two kinds of child custody:

Temporary Child Custody and Final Child Custody.

What is Temporary Custody and when do we need it at all?

Hardly anyone would deny that divorce proceedings eat up a lot of time. There is indeed a considerable amount of gap between the time when the child custody case was filed and when the court finally comes round to take the final decision. During this gap, the routine of the child needs to be determined and that’s where temporary child custody or simply, temporary custody comes into play. Here, the arrangements for the child, the visitation schedules during vacations, weekend routines etc are decided by the parents till the judge awards a final decision.

Is Temporary Custody really Temporary?

Not really. It is often observed that partners tend to consider the temporary arrangement to be insignificant enough as it looks “temporary” to them. They wait for the Court to come to a final decision of who should take care of the child after the divorce. However, the arrangements arrived at during this period may encourage the judge to award the final child custody decision very similar to the one followed during the temporary child custody period. The argument is simple: let us not disturb the routine of the child. So, let’s follow his schedule as was finalised in temporary custody.

In most of the cases, the law finds arrangements arrived at after the “temporary custody” agreements to be most suitable for the child.

Hence, it is often advised to take the temporary child custody arrangements with complete seriousness. They must arrive at a well-planned and written formal agreement. Otherwise, partners may end up accepting the “temporary” arrangements as “final” for the rest of their lives where their child is concerned.

Final Child Custody

Final child custody awarded by the Court after a divorce is legally binding and indeed “final”, as the term suggests. This custody ruling deals with the legal and physical arrangements made for the child after the divorce.

Legal Custody:

In this form of ‘custody’, the Court awards one parent or both the parents rights to take legal decisions for the child. They are also awarded the right to take decisions concerning health, religion etc, for the child.

Physical Custody:

This refers to rights awarded by the court to the divorced parents’ of the child for its living arrangements. There are two kinds of “physical custody”, “Sole custody”, where only one parent of the child is given the rights to take all legal decisions on behalf of the child. In such cases, the child lives with the parent who is assigned the sole custody of the child. The other parent is given the right of regular visits to the child.

In the case of “joint custody”, both the parents are authorised to take crucial decisions regarding the child’s life. It indicates that the child lives with both the parents on some shared basis and are both responsible for day-to-day parenting of the child.

Arrangements in joint-custody vary from state to state in USA with different states following different regulations to specify when such joint custodial arrangements would be made after a divorce.

Other legal custody types include split custody, where one or more children are allowed to remain with one parent while others are to be taken care of by the other parent. Such situations where siblings are separated are generally avoided by the judges, except in very special cases. On the other hand, the court also prefers alternating child custody arrangements where each divorced parent is allowed to take care of the child for alternate periods of time, for a year or so.

It can be hence, concluded that after a divorce, child custody is an issue which concerns not only the concerned partners, but also the society where we live in. By bringing legalities, we simply ensure smooth running of the mechanics of all relationships and a sound social system.