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Custody basics for divorcing parents

When there is a dispute about the role of unmarried or divorcing parents in the lives of children, the family law court system is usually asked to determine the respective rights of everyone involved. The rights of California parents to spend time with their children are called custodial rights. There are some basic assumptions incorporated into laws and judicial philosophies regarding the amount of time each parent is allowed to spend with children. Depending on the specifics of a situation, a judge may award sole, partial or joint custody of children.

Most jurisdictions begin with the assumption that each parent should be fully incorporated into the lives of children. Parents are also required to help financially support children pursuant to formulas enacted under state laws. Parents having equal time with children split equally between them are said to have joint custody. For logistical purposes, even in joint custody situations, a child is likely to spend more time with one parent than the other. The parent having the most time with a child is called the primary residential parent.

If a court determines that one parent is a danger to children, that parent may be excluded from visitation or required to have supervised visits. In cases of abuse or addiction, courts tend to exercise caution and err on the side of protection for vulnerable children.

Courts always make custodial rulings based upon the best interests of the children involved. If parents can set aside acrimony and objectively consider the best interests as a court might, they can often agree on a parenting arrangement. Getting assistance from trained family mediators and attorneys is usually beneficial to the process of helping set aside emotions and focus on children.

Child custody disagreements are emotionally charged and incredibly stressful. Getting advice and guidance from a family law attorney may provide parents with insight and guidance regarding the best path forward in their unique situation.

Source: Wright, L. (2017, August 25) Bridge: News and Analysis from the Center for Michigan. 'Shared-parenting bill aims for fewer every-other-weekend fathers."

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