here are several questions that are routinely asked of a Terre Haute family law attorney concerning child custody. In an effort to help clarify these issues, a list of the most frequently asked questions and their answers has been provided.
What Does The Court Consider When Determining Custody?
Your Terre Haute family law attorney will explain that every child custody case is different. However, there are standard facts that the Court will look at to determine custody issues. These facts include:
- The financial capabilities of each parent to provide for the child
- The medical history of each parent, including physical and mental
- The parents work or schooling hours compared to ability to care for child
- Signs of alcohol or drug abuse
- The age of the children – children over 12 may be asked their preference
- The bond between the child and each parent
- The wishes of the parents
- The quality of life the child will experience with each parent
- The willingness of the parents to share custody
- The level of adjustment that would be needed if the child had to relocate
- Determine if either parent has brought charges against the other for child abuse
These are not the only issues that the Court will review; they are just the most common. The Terre Haute family law attorneys that you select for your case will explain if there will be any other conditions that will be considered by the Court pertaining to your specific case.
If I Have Moved Out of the Family Home and Left the Children with My Spouse, Will This Be Held Against Me in a Custody Hearing?
In most cases, when a parent leaves the family home without taking the children, the Court will look down on it poorly. Additionally the Court may find it a more favorable living condition to allow the child to remain in the family home with the other parent because it would be too disruptive to their lifestyle. Parents that take the children with them imply that they have to protect the children, and the Court will look at this much differently. Because each case is so individualized, the Court must look at all the conditions of one parent leaving the house without taking the children. For example, if the spouse left because they had to accept a job in a different location and did not want to interrupt the children’s schooling, the Court will not look at them as if they had abandoned their children. This is why it is very important to speak in detail with your attorney about your case so they can present all of the facts to the judge.
Who Is More Likely to Be Awarded Custody, the Mother or the Father?
In the past, it was very common for the mother to be awarded custody of the child, especially if the child was under the age of five. Thankfully, these biased opinions have changed. Nearly every state has removed laws that stipulate that the mother automatically receives custody of the children. In some cases, the fathers agree to give the mother full custody because they believe that this would be in the best interest of the children. Other fathers believe that they do not stand a chance to gain custody based on these outdated laws. Fathers should remember that they have just as much right to have custody of their children and if they want to fight for custody, they should. The Court must base their custody decisions on the merits of the case and on the actual facts surrounding each individual case. Your Terre Haute family law attorney will work with you to fight for custody, regardless of which parent you are in the family.
Will Custody Only Be Awarded to One Parent?
In most cases, the Court will award joint custody of the children to the parents. This means that both parents will share in the responsibility of raising the children after the divorce or separation. Joint custody can be separated into three forms of responsibilities:
- Joint Physical Custody. This type of custody requires the children to spend a significant amount of time living with both parents.
- Joint Legal Custody. This type of custody means that the child may live with one parent full time, but both parents must agree upon all important decisions or the child such as educational, medical, and spiritual matters.
- Joint Custody. This is a combination of both physical and legal joint custody issues.
I Am Seeking Visitation Rights with My Child and I Am Gay or Lesbian, Will This Affect My Chances?
Many states have enacted laws that will not allow the Court to look at the sexual orientation of the parent in question. These are good laws that should be encouraged in every state. Sadly, there are still some states which allow judges to use their own personal social expectations or biases to determine custody and visitation issues. In these cases, someone who is gay or lesbian may have a harder time establishing visitation rights. However, parents should never give up their rights to see and love their children. Your Terre Haute family law attorneys will fight aggressively for you to see your children, regardless of your personal preferences.
Can the Court Consider Race as a Factor for Visitation Rights and Custody Issues?
Absolutely not. The Court must decide what is in the best interest of the child. The Court may not consider race, religion, or political beliefs when selecting custody for a child. Fifty years ago this may have been an issue, but it no longer has a place in the Courts. Additionally, there cannot be any issues of race when considering changes to custody at a later date. For example, in the 1980’s a father petitioned the court for custody of his children because his former wife had now married a man from a different racial background. This case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that race can never be an issue when awarding custody, regardless of personal beliefs of one of the natural parents.
Who Decides on Visitation Times and How Much Visitation Is Fair?
In most cases, the person who has primary custody of the child will make the decisions on visitation and how much time is allowed. Most former couples can come up with a very reasonable schedule that does not interfere with the activities of the child and allows both parents sufficient time to be with their children. Unlike what you see on television, most couples can easily come to an arrangement that fits all of the needs of those involved. However, if one parent is being unreasonable or vindictive, the Court can be asked to step in and establish visitation guidelines. The parent that feels as if they are not being treated fairly will have to petition the Court for changes to the custody terms. This can be accomplished with a family law attorney. To prevent problems like this from occurring, many judges are now requiring that divorce proceedings or custody proceedings establish a visitation schedule with their court filing. The judge will then review the visitation plan and if it is found fair, will sign it into a permanent agreement. From that point on, both parties will have to honor the terms of the agreement.
Is Mediation a Good Choice for Child Custody Hearings?
Mediation is perhaps one of the best ways that a couple can decide custody issues. Mediation takes place with both parties coming to a conference room and a non-biased mediator sitting between them to help them come to an agreement. In most cases, both parties will bring their family law attorney with them to ensure that the terms of the final agreement are fair to all parties involved. Mediation also offers the following benefits:
- It is less expensive than litigation. Mediation can be very cost effective for all parties involved. The local Bar Association can help the two parties find a local mediator at no cost.
- It allows both sides to be heard. Custody disagreements can be very emotionally charged. By talking in a controlled environment, both parties can come to a decision that is in the best interest of the child.
- It is much quicker than litigation. Litigation can take months to schedule a Court hearing. In many cases, depending on how busy the mediator in your area is at the time, mediation can be conducted in less than a month.