Divorce And Child Custody

Divorce And Child CustodyDivorce, also known as dissolution of marriage, is the final step in the termination of a marital union, ending legal obligations and responsibilities between the parties. The legal process of divorce includes issues of spousal support, child custody, child support, distribution of assets and division of debts. In most jurisdictions, divorce must be certified by a family law court, taking into account prenuptial agreements and financial agreements between the parties.

A contested divorce involves issues that have not been resolved by the parties. Property distribution is typically determined by the specific jurisdiction in which the property and marital assets are located. Many divorces are uncontested, as both parties are able to reach agreements regarding assets, child custody and support issues. Settlements are often reached by cooperative parties. A collaborative divorce is a method in which couples are encouraged to reach an agreement, often through a mediation process with the assistance of legal and financial professionals. A mediator is selected by the parties to encourage open discussion and resolution of the issues. Causes for divorce vary among couples. Financial disagreements, adultery, domestic violence and issues regarding children and family are reported to be leading factors.

Divorce and child custody proceedings can become emotional and adversarial, during which parenting issues become paramount. Child custody involves the legal and supportive relationship between parents and children, including the right of a parent to make appropriate decisions regarding care of the child and the parent’s obligations to provide such care. Divorce and child custody proceedings involving issues of residence and visitation of children often generate the most acrimonious disputes among parents. Many parents cooperate with custody sharing issues. Parents that proceed to litigation often find themselves embroiled in lengthy and bitter court battles that can become emotionally disruptive to the child.

Parenting schedules involve determining and honoring the best interests of the child by devising schedules that promote developmental and emotional growth of the child. Sole custody is an arrangement in which only one parent has legal and physical control of a child. Joint custody is an arrangement in which both parents have legal and physical custody of a child on a shared schedule. In situations involving several children, split custody can be ordered in which one parent retains custody over some children and the other parent has custody over the other children. This arrangement can become difficult insofar as allowing all children in the family to maintain sibling relationships. Physical custody involves the day-to-day care of a child, including the child’s residency. In the event a child lives with both parents, each parent shares joint physical custody. In this arrangement, the actual residence and care of the child is shared according to a court ordered parenting schedule. Joint physical custody involves moving the child between two homes, but the child maintains frequent and ongoing contact with both parents.

Numerous factors are considered when courts determine custody issues. Most jurisdictions use a standard that recognizes the best interests of the child as the highest priority in deciding complicated custody issues. The best interests of the child depend on several factors, including the child’s age, sex, education, physical health and mental development. Most family law courts consider lifestyle issues involving each parent. Social factors, such as child abuse or domestic violence allegations weigh in the court’s decisions regarding the best residence for the child. Additional critical factors are considered, including the parent’s ability to provide the child with necessary food, shelter, clothing and medical care. The established social environment of the child, including quality of education, continuity of peer relationships, and community affiliations are also taken into consideration, especially when adolescents are involved. If the child at issue is of consenting age, usually 12, the preferences of the child may be given significant weight by the court. During contentious and adversarial divorce proceedings, the child may become a pawn between the parents. Courts tend to focus on which parent is able to provide a stable, nurturing and stable environment to promote the emotional and intellectual growth of the child.

In the event that child abuse or spousal abuse has been proven in a court of law, it is likely that custody will be awarded to the non-abusing parent. These allegations may be difficult to prove, but are usually substantiated by police reports or social service agency complaints filed in the respective jurisdiction. Divorce and child custody issues can become difficult ordeals unless amicable settlements can be reached by cooperative parents, keeping the best interests of the child at the forefront.

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