What Happens to Children After Divorce?
There is a wealth of information, including help books, internet articles, and helpful friends and family, on the effects of divorce on children. It can be a very trying process for a child, and for the family unit as a whole, to go through a divorce. As each family’s situation is different, the ways of coping and maintaining specific family values in tact will vary greatly. However, there are some similarities in each situation, particularly when it comes to the legal system.
Custody of Minor Children
This is one of the first things that needs to be established after a divorce. There are multiple types of custody that are discussed when deciding who gets custody of the children. These are all legally-binding states of custody and can be enforced by the Court.
- Physical Custody: The legal right a parent has for the child to live with him or her. As the laws vary by state, this could be sole or joint physical custody.
- Legal Custody: The legal right of a parent to make decisions about a child’s life and upbringing, including things pertaining to education and religion. Often times states will decide on joint legal custody to support the growth of a child from both parents.
- Joint Custody: Both parents of a child, regardless of marital status, have equal rights. This can pertain to physical and/or legal custody.
- Sole Custody: One parent of a child has custody. This can pertain to physical and/or legal custody. This is often awarded to a parent if the other parent is absent, or deemed “unfit” to parent. A court can also award sole physical custody, but still grant visitation rights to the other parent.
When determining who gets custody of the children, the Court’s highest priority is the “best interests of the child”. This is influenced by many things including, but not limited to, the child’s age, gender, previous relationship with the parents, and even the child’s preference if he or she is old enough, usually above the age of 12. Both parents’ lifestyles, mental and emotional history, financial stability, and ability to give guidance are evaluated in this process as well. Neighborhood, religion, and quality of education are things that are also considered when looking at which parents have custody.
In this process, visitation rights and schedule can also be determined. Even if one parent does not have physical custody of a child, he or she can visit with the child based on a schedule determined by the family. This schedule does not need to be established by the Court.
Child support is the duty to provide financial support for a child, regardless of whether or not a parent has visitation rights. There are many variables when establishing child support, but it can be established by a judge. Any person who has been deemed a parent of the child is required to pay child support, with no discrimination towards gender. A stepparent is not required by law to pay child support unless he or she legally adopted a child.
Keeping children out of the middle of the divorce is key to their well-being. A Parenting Agreement is something that can be made to ensure communication between ex-spouses to establish expectations of their new relationship. This Agreement should cover custody, visitation, child support, and other issues that are specific to a family such as education plans, medical care, religion, and holiday plans. This Agreement can be mediated by a legal professional, and approved by a judge, making it enforceable.
If you have any questions about how best to take care of your childrens’ well-being throughout and after a divorce, call 856-227-7888 or contact us at [email protected]. We offer free consultations and have locations in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester counties, and are happy to discuss your legal options.