How are child custody decisions made?

Sep 09

When child custody decisions need to be made, there are always some important questions that must be asked. If you are considering divorce, or are already in the middle of divorce proceedings, parents will undoubtedly wonder if the child will live with them, or if they will be able to make important decisions about how the child will be brought up. If you are a grandparent or other close relative, you may wonder if you have any visitation rights or  what you may be entitled to when it comes to time with the children.

The answers to these natural questions are usually what child custody discussions are based on, but for many parents, the legal process can be unfamiliar and at times confusing. People always ask, “how are child custody decisions made? Who determines what happens to the child?”.

Generally speaking, child custody issues follow the blueprint of other issues in a divorce, like the separation of property, division of finances, and alimony. Visitation and child custody is usually decided by the parents (if an amicable decision is possible) or will be decided by the court if there is a dispute that cannot be settled otherwise. Attorneys and mediators are often a great source of assistance during this time, so it is important to have an experienced child custody lawyer (like this one in Dallas that we found that has a great website).

If parents are able to reach a negotiated settlement (usually with legal assistance on both sides), the child custody agreement can be put in writing. They can also turn to mediation if it is contentious, and often mediation can help couples reach a fair agreement.

If the parents of the child were not legally married, most state statutes list the mother as the person to be given sole custody of the child, unless the father takes legal action to secure sole custody. It is very difficult for fathers to win custody over the child if they are unwed, but they can often gain visitation rights or some form of custody if they are fit to parent. For unwed parents, it is still advisable to consult with an attorney for assistance with legal questions and forming a custody agreement. The courts may still be brought into the matter if either spouse chooses to take legal action, so it is important to note that the case can still go to court if they wish to pursue action.

Ultimately, the best interests of the child should be taken into account during any divorce or separation, and an attorney may be able to help you understand your legal options and form an agreement that works for both parents and the child in question. Attorneys deal with this every day, so don’t hesitate to contact one if you are considering divorce and want to know more about child custody.


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