Custody

Whether you are involved in a Divorce with minor children, a family support case, paternity case, or custody matters between individuals who are not married, custody will need to be determined.

Custody includes both legal and physical custody.  Legal custody involves decision-making authority as to the important decisions affecting the general welfare of the child.  This includes, for example, educational and medical decisions.  Legal custody can be joint or sole.  To have joint legal custody, the parents need to be able to cooperate and generally agree on important decisions affecting the general welfare of the child.

Physical custody describes where the child resides during any specific period of time.  Physical custody can also be joint or sole; however, in most situations, it is often more important to focus on the actual parenting time schedule rather than the term “physical custody.”

The Court determines custody by analyzing the best interests of the minor child according to the following factors:

  1. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  2. The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
  3. The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.
  4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
  6. The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
  8. The home, school, and community record of the child.
  9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
  10. The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.
  11. Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
  12. Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.

A previous Judgment or Order regarding custody may be modified only if there is a showing of proper cause or change of circumstances.  The changes must have occurred since the entry of the last custody order.  If this initial threshold is met, the Court must then determine if the modification will alter the child’s established custodial environment.  If yes, the Court must determine whether the change is in the child’s best interests based on a specific legal burden that depends on the circumstances. 

Custody can be a very complex and contentious issue, therefore, it is important that you consult with an attorney to better understand the law as it relates to your situation. 

We welcome you to contact our office to schedule your confidential consultation. Consultations can be scheduled during regular business hours, Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on evenings and weekends upon request.