It is every parent’s responsibility to act in his or her child’s best interest. Divorcing parents can lose sight of this goal when they are engaged in a high conflict divorce. Although the court prefers that parents amicably resolve custody and parenting time issues, it will decide these issues if the parents are unable to do so.
During divorce proceedings or in any action involving the custody of minor children, you will hear the following terms: sole custody, joint legal custody, visitation, parenting time, parent of primary residence, parent of alternate residence.
What do these terms mean?
When a parent has sole custody, that parent makes all decisions affecting the child. A sole custodial parent can make decisions without consulting or noticing the noncustodial parent. If the noncustodial parent disagrees with the custodial parent’s decision- making, he or she will have to seek relief from the court. This will likely occur after the decision has been made. Typically, judges do not award sole custody because it is in the child’s best interests for both parents to take an active role in their child’s life. If, however, parents are incapable of working together and their inability to do so is harmful to the child’s best interests, the court will designate one parent as the sole custodial parent.
Most parents have joint legal custody. Joint legal custody gives parents an equal say so in all major decisions affecting the child and it allows both parents to remain involved in their child’s life. Judges recognize that a joint legal custodial arrangement, whenever possible, is in a child’s best interests. If the child primarily resides with one parent, the parent the child is residing with will make the day to day, routine decisions. In order for joint legal custody to work, the parties must be able to set aside their personal differences. You don’t have to like your spouse to have a successful joint legal custodial arrangement but you and your spouse need to be able to work together for your child’s sake.
A parent who is not a joint legal custodial parent does not have any decision making rights regardless of the amount of time he or she has the child. Often, this parent’s time with the child is referred to as visitation. The parent who the child physically resides with the majority of the time is called the parent of primary residence. The parent who is not the primary residential parent is called the parent of alternate residence. These terms are usually used in the context of a joint legal custodial arrangement. The time the parent of alternate residence spends with the child is referred to as parenting time. The amount of parenting time the parent of alternate residence has will vary from case to case.
Mrs. Agostini will provide you with the necessary guidance to assist you in pursuing a custody/parenting arrangement that works well for you and is in your child’s best interests.
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