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3 Basic Child Custody Concepts You Need To Know

Dealing with a custody situation can be a challenge even under the best of circumstances. Regardless of whether you're involved in a full-on fight or an amicable attempt to resolve the situation, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with these three core concepts of the system.

The Best Interests of the Child

At the core of the American family court system is the idea that all decisions should be based on the best interests of the child. It's easy to understand how this applies to extreme hazards, especially physical, emotional, and verbal abuse.

What sometimes catches people by surprise about custody decisions is that the best interests of the child also govern more seemingly innocuous issues. For example, one parent's partial custody may be limited because they're unable to get the kid to school. The parent may have done no wrong, but it doesn't matter because handling a child's education is considered paramount. Similar situations can emerge when it comes to raising a child within a family's culture and religion.

Joint Custody

Another concept that can surprise people unfamiliar with the system is joint custody. One might think this means 50-50 time with the child. Instead, what it usually means is that both parents get input on the child's upbringing. For example, if there's a choice to be made about sending a kid to a private school, both parents have to agree to the decision.

In a joint custody situation, it's common for one parent to have the kid the majority of the time. Generally, one parent gets a larger portion of time with a child because it's highly impractical to keep shuttling a kid back and forth or to split time in segments of weeks. Many custody agreements work with one parent having the kid during the week and the other during the weekend.

Temporary and Permanent Orders

Especially if there is contention over how to handle a situation, a court may enter a temporary order. This is a short-term solution that's applied to ensure that a basic life framework is there to support a child. Eventually, a permanent order will have to be entered.

If you're engaged in a disputed case, it's wise to retain the counsel of a child custody attorney. Not only will they bring a great deal of legal knowledge to bear, but they can provide a buffer between you and a former partner.