Finding yourself facing divorce proceedings is always a difficult process, and the stress can be exacerbated if there are children involved, and you find yourself in the middle of a disagreement over child custody. Navigating a legal case can be difficult, with jargon and terminology often being confusing, and the stress of the situation can make it hard to make clear, straightforward decisions and arrangements.
If you are in the middle of a child custody battle, or have concerns that this may be in your immediate future, it is essential that you have a qualified experienced professional on side to help you work your way through the stress, and help to secure the best possible outcome for you and your family.
Before embarking on a custody battle, it is important to understand some of the main terms and distinctions in the different types of custody. There are two main, basic, legal elements to custody in Idaho: physical and legal.
As the name suggests, physical custody refers to the physical location in which the child or children live, and may fall into one of two categories: joint physical custody, or sole physical custody. In the majority of cases, judges will presume that it is in the best interests of the child to have ongoing, regular contact with both parents, and so will award joint physical custody whenever this is possible - this means that the child or children will spend part of their time at one parents help, and the rest of the their time at the other.
In some cases, however, it is not suitable for joint physical custody to be awarded - there may be a history of unreliability or unavailability, one parent may live a long distance away, or have a history of abuse or substance abuse which means that they are not a suitable candidate for custody. In this case, sole physical custody will be awarded - this means that the children reside in the home of one parent at all times, though the other parent may have visitation rights, depending on the situation.
The second type of custody to consider is that of legal custody. If physical custody refers to the geographical residence of the child or children, then legal custody refers to almost everything else that is not covered by this. Legal custody may refer to decisions around the child's medical decisions, their religious training and upbringing, their choice of schools and tutors, any extracurricular activities, any required mental health care or provision, and any other decisions which need to be made to secure the welfare of the child.
As with physical custody, legal custody may be shared - known as joint legal custody - or given to one parent - known as sole legal custody. Once again, judges will usually prefer to assign shared legal custody wherever possible, unless there is a good reason to allocate sole legal custody.
Unless there are extenuating circumstances such as abuse or neglect, the majority of judges will prefer to assign 50-50 custody wherever possible. Despite the moniker, it is important to note that this arrangement will not necessarily offer a 50% split down the middle - there may be a variety of combinations which work to allow parents to share custody in a number of different ways. Life is often complicated, and your custody arrangement may look different depending on your situation.
In an ideal world, parents will live close together, and the split will have been amicable. This will allow each parent to provide a fully functioning home for the child or children involved, and both physical and legal custody could be split 50/50 in a way which is practical and beneficial for the child. In some cases, however, parents may get along, and be in a position to share financial and legal custody, but find that the constant transitions are too stressful for the family and children - children with additional needs may find this particularly challenging. In this case, parents may technically share custody, but have the child reside at one house, with generous visits from the non-resident parent. This may also happen with joint legal custody arrangements - one parent may find that in practical terms, they end up with greater responsibility for day-to-day decisions, simply by spending more time with the child.
In each of these cases, deviating from the official custody arrangements is not a huge issue, providing that everyone involved is happy with the situation, and that the arrangement agreed remains in the best interest of the child.
If you are in the midst of a child custody arrangement, or simply need advice on the best way to proceed, it is important that you have a reliable, trustworthy legal professional onside to help. Get in touch today, and see how we can help you take the next steps forward for your family.