Types of Child Custody in Appleton
Many people think of only physical placement when they consider child custody. Physical placement refers to the parent that will spend time physically with the child and make routine decisions for them. Routine decisions can include when the child does homework, goes to bed, and if they engage in extracurricular activities. Routine decisions cannot conflict with the decisions made by the person who has legal custody. When making decisions on physical placement, a judge will take a number of factors into consideration. These include:
- The relationship the child has with each parent and their siblings
- Any changes in school, the home, or religion that would affect the child
- Access to child care services
- The physical and mental health of the parent seeking custody
- When the child is of a certain age and maturity, the child’s preference
- Any recommendations made by professionals, such as social workers and psychologists
Legal custody refers to the parent who has the authority to make major decisions for the child. These decisions may include:
- The medical treatment the child receives
- The religion the child will be raised in
- Where the child will go to school
- Consent to marry
- Consent to join the military
When awarding either type of custody, a judge can decide to award sole custody or joint custody.
Judges typically try to award joint custody in most situations, as it is believed that this is in the best interests of the child. Joint custody means that each party has the same rights and no one’s rights are superior to the other, unless otherwise stated in the final court order.
Joint legal custody means that both parents will have an equal say when making important decisions for the child. This sometimes requires the two parties to work together. Joint physical placement means that the child will spend an approximately equal amount of time with each of their parents. If the parents are not married at the time of birth and paternity is not quickly established, it is presumed that the mother has sole custody until paternity is established.
Sole custody means that only one parent has the authority to make decisions for the child and they can make them in any manner they see fit. Sole custody referring to physical placement means that the child mainly remains with one parent. The other parent may be given some visitation rights.
Sole custody is very difficult to obtain and is usually only awarded in the most extreme situations. The simplest way to obtain sole custody is when both parents can agree that one parent will have sole custody. If the parents can reach an agreement, they must then submit it to the court for approval. A judge will approve any child custody agreement as long as it is in the best interests of the children.
If the parents cannot agree to sole custody, one party can still obtain it if they can prove:
- The other parent is unable to perform parenting duties
- The existing circumstances make joint custody very difficult
- The two parties cannot cooperate when making decisions for the child
Mediating Child Custody Matters
Child custody is a very contentious issue, and parents cannot always agree on it. When this is the case, mediation is often very useful. During mediation, both parties will meet with a third party mediator. Other experts, such as childcare development specialists, may also attend mediation sessions to advise on the best interests of the child.
Mediators do not make any final decisions in the case. Their only job is to try and foster communication and compromise between the two parents so they can come to an agreement. Parents can decide to enter into mediation on their own, or a judge may order it before the case goes to litigation.
If the two parties can reach an agreement during mediation, a formal document outlining the agreed upon terms is drafted and submitted to the court. As long as the judge believes the agreement protects the child’s best interests, they will approve it. When the parents cannot reach an agreement, they will have to go to court so a judge can make the final decision.
Child Custody Modifications
Once a child custody order is issued by a judge, it is final and legally binding. Failing to comply with the terms outlined in a court order comes with very serious consequences, including being held in contempt of court. When a person feels as though they can no longer comply with a child custody order, they can petition the court for a modification.
The courts do not grant child custody modifications easily. To obtain a modification, you must show:
- The child’s current circumstances place them at risk of being physically or emotionally harmed
- Modifying the current child custody order is in the best interests of the child
For example, if a parent petitioned the court to modify the order because they simply wanted to spend more time with their child, that may not be enough to obtain a modification. On the other hand, if one parent could show that the other party is physically abusive towards the child, that would be enough to obtain a modification.