Divorce is never easy. It is a process that involves numerous legal matters and a flood of emotions, which always come with any separation.
Divorce is difficult not just for the spouses involved but children as well. While its impact on children varies from case to case, various studies have shown that it can negatively affect children even until they become adults.
Some effects of divorce on children include low academic performance, negative self-image, and problems in establishing social relationships. The more alarming effects include aggressiveness, clinical depression, and suicide ideation.
Thus, finding the right parenting agreement that will benefit children is important when filing a divorce.
Some aspects of divorce are relatively easy to settle. For instance, the division of tangible properties like houses, cars, and money has a legal formula that needs to be followed. This process can be even easier to finalize with the help of a property settlement attorney.
On the other hand, a child custody agreement doesn’t have a specific formula, but the key is prioritizing children. There are several factors that parents must consider, such as their education and health.
Negotiations for child custody may occur in or out of court. Spouses may choose to conduct informal negotiations and create parenting plans based on their own terms. This is probably the best way to proceed since the parents know what’s best for their children. But if informal negotiation is not possible, a family court judge will have to decide for the parents.
Whichever method occurs, the goal is the same: to determine the type of custody that fits the children’s best interests the most. But what are they?
Types of Custody
There are four types of custody to consider: physical custody, legal custody, sole custody, and joint custody.
Physical custody determines a child’s living arrangement. Legal custody determines parental roles and responsibilities. Sole custody means that only one parent will be responsible for a child’s living arrangements and/or life decisions. Meanwhile, joint custody means both parents can have their kids live with them, and both can make life decisions for them.
Joint custody can either be joint physical custody, joint legal custody, or joint physical and legal custody.
In joint physical custody, children reside in each parent’s home for a certain period. For instance, children may live with one parent for six months and then stay in the other parent’s house during the other six. In joint legal custody, while the children might only reside with one parent, both parents can make major life decisions for their children. For example, even if they stay in the non-custodial parent’s house, only the custodial parent can make decisions for them.
The most common arrangement granted by the court is joint physical and legal custody.
Joint custody benefits children since they have access to both their parents. This can significantly reduce the negative effects of divorce. This arrangement also benefits spouses since they can fulfill their parental roles as normal.
However, there are downsides as well. For instance, conflicts between parents are more likely to occur, which can make children feel stressed. Also, children may have a hard time adjusting, given that they go back and forth between their parents’ homes.
Sole custody can either be sole physical custody or sole legal custody. In sole physical custody, children will live only with one parent. The noncustodial parent may be allowed visitation rights, such as sleepovers and vacations. But these rights are subject to negotiations between spouses or court orders. In sole legal custody, one parent has sole rights and responsibilities in making life decisions for the children.
A sole custody agreement is quite uncommon and is often granted only in special circumstances. Some examples include domestic violence, substance abuse, or negligence. The family court may also grant sole custody if one of the parents is consistently absent from the child’s life or has migrated to a different country.
In certain situations, sole custody is advantageous as it allows the custodial parent to protect their children from the non-custodial parent. This arrangement also reduces conflict between parents as there is less communication between them.
However, single parenting does present challenges. In some cases, children may feel resentment towards one or both parents. The children may also find it difficult to adjust to having only one parent.
Whichever type of custody is granted or finalized, the most important thing is that parents do what they can to nurture their children and help them live a comfortable life.