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Learn More About Child Custody Arrangements

Updated on April 1, 2012
Child custody decisions are made by judges in a family court. The decisions are based on the best interests of the children.
Child custody decisions are made by judges in a family court. The decisions are based on the best interests of the children. | Source

No matter how badly divorcing parents treat each other, generally parents want what is best for their children.

Of course, there are exceptions to this, but parents who seek to minimize the negative effects of divorce on their children will often come together to create a workable child custody arrangement.

This can provide the best possible environment for physical and emotional development.

Problems arise when divorcing parents seek to put their own interests first, or refuse to compromise in an effort to further hurt the other parent. In situations like this, it is the role of the family court to step in and help the parents resolve their conflicts as far as child custody goes.

The struggle to establish a new partnership as parents of the children is ongoing, but a detailed child custody arrangement can be a helpful tool in providing a stable routine for everyone.

Custodial Parent

The family court will determine a custodial parent in most cases. This is the parent with whom the children will live with primarily and the home that is considered the permanent residence, such as for school attendance.

This status can also be known as the custodial parent or the domicilary parent. This parent is generally awarded sole physical custody.

One or both parents can be awarded legal custody of the children. Legal custody means that one or both parents can make decisions regarding the children’s upbringing.

Sole legal custody limits this ability to one parent, while joint legal custody requires parents to consult each other for these major decisions, such as schooling or religious education, for example.

Children thrive when they have involved, caring parents eager to care for them physically and emotionally.
Children thrive when they have involved, caring parents eager to care for them physically and emotionally. | Source

Non-custodial Parent

The non-custodial parent is entitled to scheduled parenting time, also called visitation time, with the children. As part of the divorce proceedings, a detailed schedule should be created by both parents that outline where their children will be on any given day.

Holidays, vacation days and regular days can all be divided up between the two parents.

A parenting time schedule will only be approved by a family court judge if it reflects the best interests of the children. Therefore, it’s important that parents create a schedule that is age appropriate and doesn’t shuffle the children around too much or force them to miss out on important traditions and activities.

If one parent moves out of state, that generally means that non-custodial status will be awarded. In those cases, an out-of-state custody arrangment ensures as much visitation as is reasonable, based on distance, ages of children and the ability of the parents to cover travel costs.

The non-custodial parent generally doesn’t receive physical custody, but often has joint legal custody. In this case, the non-custodial parent has as much say in the raising of the children on major issues as the custodial parent.

Contributing Factors to Custody

In determining child custody arrangements, family court judges review a long list of factors that influence their decisions. Each case is different, and requires a thorough review of the unique conditions of each parent and each child.

Some of the factors that influence child custody decisions are:

  • The age and maturity of each child
  • The emotional bond between each child and each parent
  • The children’s environment prior to the separation
  • The medical or special needs of each child
  • The capacity of each parent to care for the children
  • The mental and physical health of each family member
  • The school and community ties for each child
  • The preference of each child, if they are old enough to express it
  • The distance between residences
  • The willingness of each parent to encourage the children’s relationship with the other
  • The previous responsibilities of each parent prior to separation
  • The moral and ethical behavior of each parent

Regardless of what kind of child custody arrangement the parents agree to, it's important to remember that once the agreement has been approved by the family court, it is binding. In order for everyone to move forward and adjust to the new lifestyle, parents must take the lead in maintaining positive interaction, supportive parenting and a stable environment.


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    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 5 years ago from Canada

      This is all new to me and i am finding your hubs helpful. Thanks for writing them.