Even though divorce has become commonplace, it is never easy, and the matter is even more complicated when kids are involved. Another issue for a soon-to-be divorced mom is who they can turn to, as many of their friends either never married or are still married.
So, what is a mom to do when it comes to navigating a child custody case? Obviously, your lawyer is a resource; but the reality is that most of their role is confined to negotiating the terms of the divorce settlement and custody agreement. As such, this article will help to outline what you need to know about child custody.
1. Get A Lawyer
Even if you are a member of the Bar, you should always get yourself representation when it comes to determining the custody of your children. The reason is simple – divorces are an emotional time for everyone involved.
Given this, it is better to have a professional in your corner as they will help you navigate the process and make sure that the right decisions are made based on the specifics of your case.
Another reason to get a lawyer is that it will give you a confidante to help share some of the load. Even when a divorce is amicable, the fine details of custody and visitation can be enough to break anyone. As such, having a third party to help work out the details can lift a weight off your shoulders. This will also help you to prepare for life as a single mom. Not that it is ever going to be easy, but this will require some getting used to.
In addition, a good lawyer will know the family court judges in their area including what they look for in an agreement and this will help you to uncover some of the unknowns when you are trying to finalize your divorce.
Remember, having a lawyer in your corner means that you have someone in your corner and this can help you to navigate the process. So, don’t try to do it alone. Get some peace of mind by getting a lawyer.
2. Learn the Lingo
When it comes to figuring out child custody there are several terms that you must learn. For example, visitation, joint custody, and sole custody. While the means are straight forward, there are some wrinkles especially if the parents plan on living in different states.
Visitation means the right for the parent who does not have custody to visit their child. Now, this can be in a supervised situation or an unsupervised situation. In addition, some agreement will outline the minimum number of visitation in each year while others will more loosely define when the parent without custody can visit their children.
As mentioned, visitation is not the only thing that you will need to know – there is also custody. Now, there are two types of custody and a lot goes into determining which type is the best fit in your case.
Sole custody means that one parent has been designated as the only guardian of the children. In many cases, this is the mother but it can also be the dad. Ultimately sole custody means that the parent will be the one that school calls whenever there is a problem or will be the one taking the kids to the see the doctors. Basically, you are the boss in a sole custody situation.
Meanwhile, joint custody means that both parents have legal responsibility for the children and this can be tricky – especially if the parents have different opinions on parenthood. Now, some states don’t have a legal definition of joint custody, but that hasn’t stopped some judges from applying it. This could mean that the devil is in the details and as such you will need to have your lawyer walk you through the ins and out of a joint custody order to make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities.
Another term to familiarize yourself with is the separation agreement. This is not a court order. Instead, a separation is a contract that outlines the terms of a legal separation and if one side refuses to follow the terms of the agreement, then the other will need to get a court order to enforce the contract.
As mentioned, getting divorced is never easy but just remember to get yourself a lawyer, a good support network, as well as learn the lingo to make sure you are control of the process.