Learn whether it matters who is first in child custody filing and what really determines…
If you are getting a divorce from your spouse and they are seeking full custody, what does this mean for you? We understand you have questions and concerns about how much say you'll have in your child's life and how often you'll get to see your kids. To help you know what to expect, our child custody lawyers are explaining what full custody is and what it may look like for the non-custodial parent.
Legal vs. Physical Child Custody
First, let's look at legal custody versus physical custody, how they differ, and what this means for you.
Legal custody refers to making life choices on your child's behalf, including where they will attend school, religious upbringing, and medical decisions. Even when the child is living with one parent the majority of the time, in most cases, both parents have equal legal custody where both parties have a say in the major decisions.
The court may give one parent sole legal custody only if there are concerns about the other parent, such as:
- Found to be abusive
- Unfit to care for the child
- Parental abandonment
Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child lives. In cases of joint physical custody, the child splits custody quite evenly. In instances of full custody, or as it's legally defined, sole custody, the child lives with one parent a majority of the time though a visitation schedule will be set up.
What Does Sole Legal Custody Mean for the Other Parent?
As we mentioned, it is very rare for sole legal custody to be awarded to one parent over the other, and in the majority of cases, the court awards joint legal custody. However, when one parent is awarded sole legal custody, they are the only ones making important decisions on behalf of the child. They do not need to discuss nor consult with the other parent regarding issues like healthcare, education, or religious upbringing.
What Does Sole Physical Custody Mean for the Other Parent?
Full custody, or sole custody, is much more varied depending on the circumstances. If one party files for sole physical custody, the court will want to see reasons for this as it has become commonplace for judges to grant joint physical custody.
The court looks at the best interests of the child when awarding custody, and this includes:
- The location of both parents
- The ability to provide a safe, stable home
- What will be least disruptive to the child
- Work schedules of the parents
- School schedule of the child
- The ability to foster a healthy relationship with the other parent
- The age of the child
If they determine that joint custody between both parents, they may set up a custody arrangement that involves:
- Weekend or alternativing weekend visitation
- Weeknight dinners with the non-custodial parent
- Alternating holidays
- Summer vacation time
In cases where there are concerns about the parent's ability to adequately and safely care for the child, the court may rule that supervised visits are required.
Child Support and Sole Custody
Typically, the non-custodial parent will be responsible for paying child support to the custodial parent. Income, how much time the child spends with each parent, and other factors will play a role in how the judge calculates child support, but in nearly all cases, unless parental rights are terminated, the non-custodial parent will be expected to support their child financially.
Schedule a Consultation with a Child Custody Lawyer in Raleigh
If you are concerned about child custody, whether you are seeking sole or joint custody or would like to adjust a current custody arrangement, we can help. Our family law firm in Raleigh will advocate on your behalf to help you meet your goals so you can provide the best circumstances for your child. To schedule a consultation, call us today at (919) 301-8843 or fill out the form below to get started.