Divorce: What To Know When Splitting Child Custody
Parents will face some tough decisions with divorce. In many cases, the marital strife that led to a break-up could also affect parenting issues like child custody and visitation. Some parents wonder if a custody agreement that includes splitting up siblings is a good idea. This plan can work for some families but it can also be controversial. Read on to find out more.
Understanding Physical Custody and Legal Custody
Legal custody is awarded to nearly all parents except those who are unfit to parent. A parent that ends up without legal custody is unlikely to have physical custody either. That category of a parent is often confined to those who may be charged with criminal acts like abuse and other very serious crimes against the spouse or the child. Some incarcerated parents don't have legal custody either. Legal custody, when both parents are deemed fit, allows both parents the power to make important decisions about the child usually centered around issues like their health, religion, discipline, education, and more.
Physical custody is just like it sounds. It's where the child primarily resides. This is also where things can get confusing. For instance, when one parent gets primary physical custody of the child and the other parent is allowed visitation privileges, it can be known as joint custody in some states. The word "joint", however, refers to the legal end of things and not where the child resides. Other than joint custody, shared or 50/50 custody is popular. This is when parents share time with the child in approximately 50% time segments. There is no visitation with shared custody since both parents already have half custody of the child.
Keeping Siblings Together
In split custody cases, siblings may be divided with one parent taking physical custody of one child and the other parent taking physical custody of the other. Since this situation has the potential to cause more stress on a child, some family court judges are extremely reluctant to agree to a split plan. However, when the children are far apart in age, such as an infant and a teenager, the judge may agree.
Keeping Siblings Apart
As mentioned above, the ages of the children can make a split decision easier to handle. Other issues that might call for split custody are when one sibling has a special need to reside with one parent for medical reasons or they are particularly close to one parent.
If split custody is of interest, speak to your divorce lawyer.