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Who Gets the Kids?

How a Child Custody Attorney Can Help Your Family

Custody and the time you can spend with your children are often the most emotional and difficult issues that come up during a divorce. We’ll walk you through the intricacies of legal and physical custody, find out your goals and hopes for you and your children, and provide advice on how the court might decide.

There are two types of custody:

  • Physical custody refers to where the child lives – that is, in which parent’s house.
  • Legal custody refers to who makes major decisions regarding the child in the areas of education, medical and religion. This is generally assumed to be shared 50-50, and the courts are generally reluctant to change that balance unless there are some extreme circumstances involved.

Everything the court does is intended to serve the best interest of the child. In determining what is the best interest of the child, the court considers:

  1. a child’s physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs, and the effect of the proposed arrangements on the child’s needs and development;
  2. any special medical, mental health, or educational needs that the child may have that may require special parenting arrangements or access to recommended services;
  3. the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient ability, age, and maturity to express an independent, reliable preference;
  4. whether domestic abuse, as defined in section 518B.01, has occurred in the parents’ or either parent’s household or relationship; the nature and context of the domestic abuse; and the implications of the domestic abuse for parenting and for the child’s safety, well-being, and developmental needs;
  5. any physical, mental, or chemical health issue of a parent that affects the child’s safety or developmental needs;
  6. the history and nature of each parent’s participation in providing care for the child;
  7. the willingness and ability of each parent to provide ongoing care for the child; to meet the child’s ongoing developmental, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs; and to maintain consistency and follow through with parenting time;
  8. the effect on the child’s well-being and development of changes to home, school, and community;
  9. the effect of the proposed arrangements on the ongoing relationships between the child and each parent, siblings, and other significant persons in the child’s life;
  10. the benefit to the child in maximizing parenting time with both parents and the detriment to the child in limiting parenting time with either parent;
  11. except in cases in which domestic abuse as described in clause (4) has occurred, the disposition of each parent to support the child’s relationship with the other parent and to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent; and
  12. the willingness and ability of parents to cooperate in the rearing of their child; to maximize sharing information and minimize exposure of the child to parental conflict; and to utilize methods for resolving disputes regarding any major decision concerning the life of the child.

Custody and Parenting Time Evaluation

As a parent, if you disagree about who should have custody or what the parenting time schedule should be, a court will most likely order that an expert evaluate and determine what custody and parenting time arrangement will serve the best interest of the child. The custody and parenting time evaluator will delve into the lives of the parents and the children. He or she will conduct psychological evaluations and, if necessary, chemical dependency evaluations. The evaluator will meet with the parents, the children, and other people who have watched the parents with their child, such as school counselors, grandparents, daycare providers, teachers, and coaches. After the evaluation is complete, the evaluator will issue a recommendation regarding custody and parenting time directly to the court.

Guardian ad Litem

If the court is concerned that the well being of a child is compromised by either or both parents, it will appoint a Guardian ad Litem. The purpose of the Guardian ad Litem is often to make recommendations to the court regarding what custody and parenting time arrangement will be in the best interest of the child.

Talk to a lawyer today about Who Gets the Kids?:

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