Custody is a term often misunderstood by clients. The term custody actually refers to two different and equally important legal terms, Physical/Residential custody and Legal Custody. Residential custody determines where a child will primarily reside. Legal custody will determine which parent has decision making authority over issues affecting the child, including, health, education, religion and general welfare.
The courts have jurisdiction to make custody awards regarding children under the age of eighteen years old.
Physical/residential custody will dictate which parent has a financial obligation to provide child support to the other. The parent who is granted Physical/Residential Custody is the one entitled to receive child support from the non-custodial parent. Additionally, the law generally permits the custodial parent to claim the child or children as dependency exemptions when filing tax returns.
The courts will award custody of a child to one parent over the other based upon the consideration of a number of factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child.
The custody factors the courts will typically review include:
- Which parent has been the primary caretaker of the child
- Parenting skills of each parent
- Mental and physical health of the parents
- Work schedules and childcare plans of the parents
- The child’s preference, depending upon the age and maturity of the child
Joint Custody is an arrangement between the parents where they agree to jointly decide all issues concerning the health, education and general welfare of the child. A joint custody arrangement will usually only be successful if the parents have an amicable relationship and the ability to communicate and co-parent effectively in matters concerning the child. Joint Custody is not usually awarded by a court after a contentious legal battle. The fact that parties are unable to settle their divorce is usually indicative that the relationship is so damaged that co-parenting will not be possible. Normally, joint custody is an arrangement arrived at by mutual agreement between the parents.
Mr. Pickney has obtained custody for numerous clients through litigation and by crafting creative parenting arrangements to maximize his clients’ input and decision-making in their children’s lives.