Disclaimer: Laws change, so consult attorney for updates.
I. Custody/Parenting Time Options
Where there are minor children and the divorcing parents cannot agree on parenting time, custody, visitation, or child support, the final decision on these issues is made by the family court judge.
- Joint Legal Custody: Means that parents will communicate and cooperate with one another and attempt to reach mutual decisions regarding major issues affecting their children. This decision process includes, but is not limited to major medical decisions; educational decisions, and religious upbringing.
- Joint Physical Custody: Means that children live with one parent part of the time and the other parent part of the time. This time does not have to be equal. The parent who has care of the children at any given time is responsible for routine decisions regarding the children.
- Primary Physical Custody: Means that the children live primarily with one parent.
- Sole Physical Custody: Means that the children live with one parent and that parent is responsible for making major decisions regarding the children.
II. Best Interest Factors
The basis for determining child custody is "the best interests of the child." The "Child Custody Act" sets forth eleven factors that a judge must consider when making a custody decision. These factors are:
- the love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child;
- the capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance, and continuation of the educating and raising of the child in its religion or creed, if any;
- the capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care, recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs;
- the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes;
- the moral fitness of the parties involved;
- the mental and physical health of the parties involved;
- the home, school and community record of the child;
- the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference;
- the willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent;
- Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child;
- any other factors considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.
III. Post-Judgment Modification of Child Custody and Support Orders
To modify a custody order after the judgment, a petitioner must prove that there has been either a material change in circumstances.
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