Parties going through a divorce find property issues difficult, but they generally pale in comparison with the concern and emotion that arises when the child custody agreement is at stake. The good news is that, like the other issues, most people are able to settle custody issues out of court. The prospect of having the time each parent spends with a child decided by a judge, who is simultaneously a highly-trained jurist and a complete stranger to the family, sits uncomfortably with most people. When no resolution can be negotiated, the court can and will make custodial decisions.
A Child Custody Agreement has two parts: decision-making and the custodial schedule.
1. The decision-making element relates to which of the parents has the legal authority to make final decisions affecting the child’s health, education, and general well-being. Legal custody can be granted to one parent, but more often the court will award or the parties will agree on joint legal custody. In a well-functioning joint legal custody arrangement, both parents make the major decisions for the child together, with the benefit of the input and experience of each. When this option exists, it is preferred. In some situations, most commonly when a history of family abuse makes it inappropriate, the parties cannot realistically be expected to confer. In those cases, the court considers sole custody to one parent. There is no presumption that decision making will be joint.
2. The custodial schedule is custom made, family by family. There is no standard schedule, no minimum or maximum time set out by law, and no particular number of days each parent can expect to receive. More specifically, there is no presumption that custodial time will be shared equally. Circumstances may or may not justify that outcome. The availability of each parent and the historical role of each will be important factors in determinations, such as getting custody of a child.
Child Custody in Northern Virginia: Avoid Court
One definite advantage of a settlement over a court determined resolution is the ability to put into place specifics a court normally will not and in some cases actually cannot enact. Very specific terms relating to the child’s activities, upbringing, and family traditions might be successfully negotiated. If they are not, a court is unlikely to “micromanage” those sorts of issues.
Older children can testify in custodial proceedings; however, it is almost never a good idea to plan to call a child as a witness in a contested custody case. At first, that point seems counterintuitive, because an older child’s reasonable preference is a factor that the court is to give consideration when deciding custody. Judges and many mental health professionals believe that children are damaged by perceiving themselves in the position of having to choose between their parents, and judges extrapolate from that fact that the parent who is willing to put a child through the experience of testifying is not putting the best interests of the child ahead of the desire to win.
Child Support Attorney Northern Virginia
Masterman Krogmann can assist you in any child support or child custody case you may have. Contact us today to become represented by one of the top child custody lawyers in Northern Virginia.