Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody
Find answers to the following questions on this webpage. Contact me, Steven R. Stolar, in Beverly Hills, to discuss your own questions about child custody, child support and other child-related matters.
- Does joint legal custody mean we always need to agree?
- Does joint physical custody mean a child is split 50/50?
- How are an agreement and a judgment different?
- What happens if one parent wants to move away?
- What happens if both parents live in different states?
- Does child support affect custody and visitation rights?
- Is it more likely for a mother to get custody?
Does joint legal custody mean that the other parent and I always need to agree?
No! You are both still human and are bound to have differing opinions on how to raise your child together. What joint legal custody means is that both parents have the legal right to make decisions regarding their child and that no parent can make a decision on their own.
Parents who have joint legal custody of a child are encouraged to work together to come to an agreement on decisions to avoid going back to argue about custody matters in court.
Does joint physical custody mean that parents’ time with a child is split 50/50?
It is often difficult for a child to split their time completely even, so it is common for a child to spend more time with one parent over the other – even when joint physical custody is awarded. In these cases, the parent who has the child most is the “primary custodial parent.”
How are an agreement and a judgment different?
In some child custody cases, the parents will be able to work together to determine an agreement regarding the custody of their child or children. Should the parents, with their lawyers, be able to draft a written agreement that is signed by two or more parties, it is a binding, enforceable agreement. However, a court will not be able to enforce such an agreement it becomes a court order – also known as a judgment. In some cases, the court will be able to take the components of the agreement and incorporate it into the final judgment.
The judgment would then replace the agreement, and the court would be able to enforce it in case of future violations.
What happens if one parent wants to move away?
While moving – especially to a different state – is always a complicated affair, it is never more complicated than when it involves a divorced family and their children. If you are interested in moving after a divorce, or if your ex-spouse is considering relocation, it is crucial you talk to a lawyer, since these laws change frequently and you need to protect your rights.
In most cases, parents who have sole physical custody will be able to relocate with the children – unless the other parent is able to prove that such a move would not be in the child’s best interest. This is generally only true, however, in cases where sole physical custody is permanent, something that is not always clear. In cases where parents share joint physical custody, the parent who wants to move with the children will need to prove to the court that the move would benefit the child and be in their best interests.
What happens if both parents live in different states?
Determining child custody can become complicated if the parents involved do not reside in the same state. That being said, they are not impossible. All states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which created a standard for courts determining and accepting custody decisions.
Under UCCJEA, states are able to make a decision regarding custody if one of the following is true:
- The state is the “home” of the child – meaning the child has resided there for at least six months or was living in the state prior to a parent taking them.
- The state has people with significant connections to the child – such as teachers.
- The child lives within the state and would be at risk for abuse or neglect if sent away.
- There is no other state that can meet one out of three tests listed above or a state is able to pass these tests but has subsequently declined to make a custody decision in the case.
Does child support affect custody and visitation rights?
While related, child support does not directly affect custody and visitation rights. What this means is that a parent cannot refuse to let the other parent see the child just because the support was not paid. On the flip side, a parent cannot refuse to pay child support just because they have been denied visitation with the child.
Is it more likely that a mother will get custody?
It used to be common for courts to favor mothers when it came to custody decisions – especially in cases where the child was in the “tender years” of 5 and under. This, however, has been rejected almost entirely in most states, and in the rest, it is only used as a “tie-breaker” in cases of equally fit parents and preschool children. There is no state that automatically awards custody to a mother regardless of each parent’s unique fitness.