Child Custody Law Basics You Should Know

Child custody law issues are often filled with legal and emotional implications. There are plenty of questions you might have before you visit a child custody attorney. It can be helpful to learn a bit about the basics before you start asking questions, and here are four things you should know.

What Happens Without a Court Order?

In most U.S. states, the absence of a court order means that equal rights between the two parents is the default. You and the other parent might have a written agreement in place, and the court will certainly take this under advisement. Any paperwork that wasn't drawn up by an attorney, though, will be subject to additional legal scrutiny. Even if you and an ex are on good terms, it's best to get a court order so everyone knows what rules they'll be operating by.

How Much Say Does a Child Have?

The age and maturity of the child will be a major factor in deciding how much input they'll have in custody questions. As kids approach their teenage years, the court places more weight on their input. In some states, there are statutory limits at which the child can simply decide which parent they wish to live with.

Dealing with Abuse Issues

If abuse is a factor in a child custody case, the first thing that's necessary is to document what's happening. Contact the police, and an officer will get a paper trail moving. This is important because the court needs credible evidence before it's allowed to develop an argument limiting custody. It's better to get this process moving as soon as possible, and working with law enforcement is the best way to accomplish that.

The Best Interests of the Child

In America, the legal standard utilized in deciding child custody issues is what's in the best interests of the child. When both parents are capable of providing care, this means they should have equal access to their kid.

"Best interests" can sound a bit nebulous, but it has specific implications. For example, if living with one parent gives a child access to better schools, that can be a factor. Similarly, a minimal amount of economic stability needs to be provided in the household where a kid lives.

These issues can get very complicated in matters of culture, religion and healthcare. Likewise, many courts defer to the notion child should be with their mothers, if possible.