Custody disputes are a difficult situation for all family members. Parents are usually concerned about what their role may be in the child’s life going forward. For anyone going through the process, it can be useful to understand the expected court process.
The court’s main concern when deciding on custody matters is the interests of the child. They take into consideration the child’s relationship with each parent and the finances of the parents before coming to a custody decision.
Legal and physical custody
The court decides on legal and physical custody. When a parent has legal custody, he or she has the right to make decisions about the child’s life. The judge may give the parents joint legal custody or give one parent sole legal custody.
A parent with physical custody is in charge of the supervision of the child. The child lives with the parent awarded physical custody. If a judge orders joint custody, then the child lives with each party 50% of the time.
A petition for custody
A parent filing a petition for custody needs to do so in the county that the child resides. The parent who files the petition needs to service the other parent in person.
After a petition, the judge hears the cause in court. During this hearing, a judge may listen to statements from the parents and other witnesses, such as friends and family. After the hearing, the judge decides on the child’s physical and legal custody.
Modification to a custody order
To change a custody order, one parent needs to begin a claim to modify the order. It is important to only go forward with this motion due to a significant change in life circumstances. If circumstances have changed sufficient for the court to decide to adjust the custody order is appropriate for the child, it may result in a modification.