Child Custody Divorce Family Law

Divorce: Who Gets Custody?

Written by Francis King

Custody when it comes to your kids is complicated if you aren’t educated on the subject…

Whether a couple is married or unmarried, ending a relationship is difficult. When children are involved, custody is often the most complicated and emotional topic to address.

Custody is divided into two parts: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the children will spend the majority of their time. If parents share joint physical custody, the children will spend an equal amount of time living with each parent. But if one parent has sole physical custody, the children will spend most of their time living with that parent. If one parent has sole custody—or if the children spend a substantial amount of time with only one parent— that parent is referred to as the “custodial” parent.

Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make major medical, educational, and religious decisions for the children. A parent with sole legal custody doesn’t have to get the other parent’s permission before making these types of decisions, but with joint legal custody, both parents must agree.

Generally, when parents share joint legal custody, the custodial parent is also restricted from relocating the children without the other parent’s approval—or a court order. In Michigan, for example, if a custody order grants sole physical custody to one parent, and the parents share joint legal custody, the custodial parent can’t move the child more than 100 miles from the current residence without the non-custodial parent’s agreement or a court order allowing the parent to move with the kids.

Can Couples Decide Custody on Their Own?

The best way to work out a custody arrangement is to consider what’s best for the family, taking into account each child’s:

  • physical and emotional needs
  • daily routines
  • adjustment to school, local community, friends, caretakers and relatives, and
  • any extracurricular activities.

Parents should set aside any hard feelings about the separation, sit down together, and review schedules, residences, school options, finances, and any other factors that might affect the children. Once they’ve reached a custody agreement, the parents should put all their terms into a writing that covers holidays, travel arrangements, visitation-related costs, and includes a detailed visitation schedule. When the custody agreement is signed, the parents should submit it to a family court judge in their jurisdiction for approval.

If the parents can’t agree, they may try child custody mediation. With mediation, the parents meet with a child custody mediator—a neutral third party who’s trained in custody issues and conflict resolution. The mediator’s job is to help the parents resolve their disagreements. If the parents can settle their custody issues, the mediator will submit a signed custody agreement to the court for review.

In either situation, the judge will ensure the agreement is in the best interest of the children. If the court approves the agreement, a judge will incorporate it into an official order, which both parents will be expected to follow. If the parents can’t agree on custody—either on their own or with a mediator’s help—they’ll need to ask a court to decide.

All of this that I’ve just shared with you can be extremely intimidating and overwhelming which is why we offer a FREE Phone Consultation to ask questions and get clear on the things that will have the biggest impact in your case and situation.

The first step is to call the number on this page or fill in the form below this post and we’ll call you straight back.

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