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Barbara R. Trader, P.A.

Child Custody/Visitation

When considering a divorce, most people are primarily concerned about their children and what the custody arrangement will be. Both parents have a natural, legal right to be the custodian of their children. The Court must decide what arrangement is in the best interest of the children.

Usually the best interest standard focuses on stability for the children. Evidence as to the pattern for taking care of the children during the marriage is important. For example, the Court will look at who stayed home to care for the children or if both parents worked, who took the children to the doctors, to school and day care; who got up at night to take care of them when they cried; who went to PTA.; coached them in sports, took them to church and worked on their homework. Typically the parent who has the closest bond to the children, evidenced by their close relationship during the marriage, is awarded custody, and the other parent is awarded visitation. Sometimes one party is primary custodian during the school year with visitation to other party, and in the summer the arrangement is switched. The reason for switching is to give the child the stability of one home during the school year, and maximum time with the other parent in the summer.

It is important to give some thought as well to the children's preferences, if they are old enough to express them. While the court's decision is not controlled by the children's wishes, a court usually will consider those preferences in reaching a decision.

In some cases it is appropriate to have another attorney appointed to represent the children, either to determine if their therapist should be able to testify or to report what the children have to say and to make recommendations to the court about what is best for the children. Sometimes they are appointed to handle all of these matters. This additional expense is often well worth it, as it protects the children from being pulled into the litigation.

Aside from the physical custody arrangements, there also is the matter of legal custody. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about your children's welfare, such as what school they will attend or in what religion they will be raised. In an ideal world, both parents communicate positively with each other about these issues even after divorce, and joint legal custody is successful. If they are unable to do so, then sole legal custody may result.

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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Copyright 2002 by Barbara R. Trader, P.A. All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.