If you're reading this, you're probably facing divorce. More than likely, you have at least one child and you're worried how much time you'll get to spend with him or her after the divorce. It may not be much comfort, but you're not alone — each year more than one million couples on average get divorced nationwide.
From the standpoint of a Birmingham divorce and family law attorney, I can tell you there are several ways to go with custody. You should learn the difference between each type so you know going forward which is the best for your situation. I'll explain two types today: legal custody and physical custody. We'll save sole custody and joint custody for another time.
As a parent with legal custody, you would have the right — as well as the obligation — to make all-important decisions about your child's upbringing. This includes choices pertaining to schooling, religion, and medical care, among others. In many states, courts typically grant joint legal custody, which means that both parents share in the decision-making process.
Remember that if you share legal custody with the other parent and you exclude that person from the decision process, your ex can ask the court to enforce the joint custody agreement. The court won't fine you or send you to jail, but the episode will more than likely create additional friction between you and your former spouse, which is not going to help your kids, who should be foremost in your mind.
If the exclusion is based on some deeper issues (such as a history of abuse, etc.), you can ask the court to change the custody agreement and grant you sole custody. Be aware, however, that most states will usually lean toward joint legal custody, unless you can persuade the court otherwise. This is where a good divorce attorney can really come in handy.
A grant of physical custody gives a parent the right to have a child live with him or her. Some states will award joint physical custody to both parents when the child spends significant amounts of time with both parents. In cases where the child lives primarily with one parent, and has visitation with the other, the parent with whom the child primarily lives will usually have sole physical custody, with visitation rights granted to the other parent. This works best if the parents live close by, which also helps to reduce children's stress levels by allowing them to maintain a somewhat normal routine.