Whether you are a parent going through divorce or a noncustodial parent who has not seen your child for some time, it is important to understand the different types of custody and visitation available to you. It is also important to remember that deciding on the best parental arrangement for your family does not have to be complicated. In fact, if you and your ex can come up with a mutually agreeable custody and visitation schedule, a judge will likely approve it, as long as it is in the children’s best interests.
Custody and visitation laws vary by state, but all are based on the concept that the primary goal is to ensure the child’s health, safety, and welfare. Judges will often base their decision on a variety of factors, including the parents’ past history with each other and their cooperation around parenting, any allegations of domestic abuse or neglect, the ability of each parent to provide daily care for the child, each parent’s relationship with the child, the wishes of the parents (if known), the child’s relationship with each parent, siblings, other persons who may substantially impact the best interests of the child, the child’s comfort in the home, school, and community, and the mental and physical condition of the parents and custodian.
Most courts encourage frequent contact between a separated or divorced couple’s children and will not change primary residential custody unless there has been a significant change in circumstances. Judges will typically give more weight to the desires of a mature child who can express their own opinions about what they want to occur, but will still make a decision based on what they believe is in the child’s best interests.
The court may award either sole or joint legal custody to a couple, which gives one parent the authority to make major decisions about their child’s healthcare, education, religion, and other areas of life. If the court awards joint legal custody, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities to share in these decisions. The court may also award shared physical custody, which gives both parents regular and continuing contact with the child, but does not require them to live together.
In cases where the judge has concerns about a parent’s behavior or their mental health, they will generally limit that person’s access to the children. This will usually be in the form of supervised visitation, where the parent and child meet at an approved location with a third-party watching over them.
Supervised visitation can also be used when a parent and child need to become more familiar with each other, like if they have not been in contact for some time and need to build up trust. In some cases, the judge may even choose not to allow visitation at all. However, it is important to note that judges are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of a parent’s sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation when making custody and visitation decisions. If you need the help of a Miami family law attorney, click here.