Custody and Parenting Time

There are two types of custody typically addressed when parents separate or divorce; legal and physical/residential custody.  Legal custody generally relates to decision making as to the children’s health, education, safety, welfare and sometimes religious upbringing.  Physical or residential custody relates to the issue of with which parent the children will primarily reside and how much time and when they will spend with the other parent in his/her home, or possibly a true, shared 50/50 parenting plan.  Most parents have joint legal custody of their children, however, that does require that the parents are able to have some communication and the ability to consult and confer with each other regarding the children. The court is required by law to determine what custodial arrangement is in the best interests of each child.  Parents who cannot agree on a custody arrangement are required to attend custody mediation with a court approved mediator, which is generally provided by the court at no cost to the parents.  If the parents are not able to come to an agreement as to custody, the court may appoint a custody evaluator, a psychologist who will conduct psychological evaluations of the parents, possibly also of the children depending on their ages, meet with the parents and the children, and who will write an evaluation report with a recommendation.  Such evaluations are often very expensive.  Prolonged custody battles are generally detrimental to the children. It is best for the children to have as much contact as possible with both parents.  The current trend in the law, and in the court system, is to allow both parents as much access to the children as possible, unless there are serious issues relating to the mental health of one of the parents, proven allegations of abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or proven drug or alcohol abuse by a parent.