One of the first things a divorcing couple begins thinking about is child custody. By law, the judge will grant custody according to what is best for the child.
No matter how the courts decide the matter, parents should be prepared to communicate with each other about issues that affect their child, including significant events or emergencies that come up.
Legal custody versus physical custody
The divorcing parents can share legal custody equally, meaning that both will be responsible for making important decisions, such as those pertaining to education, health and general welfare. Sole custody means that the judge will award the right to make these decisions on behalf of the child to one parent. The parents might share physical custody of their child jointly or one might become the primary custodial parent, which means that he or she will have the child more than half the time; the other parent will have visitation privileges.
Matters parents should share
No matter what the court decides concerning legal custody, the judge will emphasize the importance of communication. Even if the relationship between parents is less than cordial, they must put the child's welfare first and find a way to keep each other apprisedabout matters of importance:
- Doctors and dentists
- Psychological or psychiatric therapy or counseling
- School and child care updates
- Extracurricular activities
- Vacations, summer camp
- Religious events or activities
The child's best interests
In the process of granting custody, a judge will consider the age and health of the child, the ability of the parents to provide care and the emotional bond between the parents and the child. The laws concerning custody are always in flux because the needs of parents and their children are always changing. Divorce is an emotional experience for everyone in the family. How well a child adjusts will depend on how well the parents manage the transition period that follows, a point in time in which good communication will be crucial.