Child Custody & Visitation
Child custody and visitation matters can be a challenging hurdle to overcome when going through a divorce in Mobile, Alabama or the end of a relationship. The main priority in these matters should always be whatever is in the best interest of the child and, if both parents cannot agree on what that is, the family court can then decide on how matters should proceed. Before embarking on a legal custody battle, it’s vital that both parties understand their different options so that the matter can be successfully settled in court.
There are a wide variety of different terms used in relation to child custody, yet the vocabulary in the process boils down to these two heavy hitters: physical and legal custody.
Custody Cases for Unmarried Parties
Learn more about child custody, divorce from Herlihy Law’s own Walter Gewin, as he discusses custody cases for unmarried parties and dependency cases with Dan Brennan at FM Talk 106.5.
Physical custody is known by many for who the child lives with. Physical custody means that one parent has been granted the primary responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child. Those responsibilities include providing the child with food, shelter and safety. In this instance, the child resides at one parent’s home the majority of the time.
Joint Physical Custody
Joint physical custody is when the physical needs and responsibility of the child is split between both of the parents. This means that the child will spend equal amounts of time with both parents, most often in a week-on, week-off arrangement. In joint physical custody, both parents are equally responsible for providing their child with food, shelter and safety.
Legal custody is when a parent is responsible for making decisions about the child’s health, education and overall welfare. Joint and sole custody are options for legal custody as well.
Sole Legal Custody
Sole legal custody is when one parent is designated the exclusive decision-maker for the child’s well-being. The parent will make decisions about the child’s discipline, religious upbringing and any other major decisions that would have to be made. This is rarely ordered in most cases.
Joint Legal Custody
Joint legal custody is when both parents participate in decisions about their child’s overall welfare. In some cases, the judge may order one parent to be the final decision-maker in the event that both parents can’t come to an agreement concerning different matters of the child’s life. Often, the parent who has physical custody of the child ends up being the ultimate decision-maker for the child.
Types of Visitation
Visitation rights permit parents who do not have physical custody to see their children on a regular basis. Although this can be settled outside of court, many take their case to a judge to help facilitate and determine the best method of visitation.
Standard visitation refers to the typical visitation order that is entered in most cases in that particular court. The standard visitation can be deviated from under appropriate circumstances. Different judges have their own standard orders, which vary from court to court.
Unfortunately, there are some situations where the custodial parent and/or judge believes that the child isn’t safe unsupervised with the non-custodial parent. In these situations, the judge orders Supervised Visitation.
Supervised visitation is where, in order for the parent to participate in the visitation schedule, there must be a third-party recognized by the court present during the visit. The third-party must be a family member or friend that both parents agree on. If both parents cannot agree on a suitable third party, the judge can appoint someone. There is also an option where visits take place at a licensed facility that can insure the child’s safety.