Contested Child Custody
Unfortunately for some families, the subject of divorce also means serious decisions regarding child custody. While some divorces are amicable, some are extremely tumultuous. Some parties sadly use the shared child as leverage in uncontested proceedings or over routine decisions like drop-off location or extracurricular activities. Divorce is a pivotal moment for many families. It means all the events that have culminated to that moment will not be the same. But, children thrive in a loving, stable environment, even if it means separate residences for mom and dad. Most importantly, just because a couple ceases as husband and wife, they will always be parents. In the event you find yourself in a contested, combative custody battle, you should seek the assistance of experienced counsel as soon as possible.
Legal Custody & Physical Custody
Legal custody includes major decision-making for the child, including choice of school (private, public, or home school), choice of religious practice, ideology, and other major facets of the child’s life. Shared physical and legal custody is referred to as shared parental responsibility. Physical custody includes day to day decisions, like what soccer camp the child will attend, what he eats for breakfast everyday, and what his daily schedule entails. Some parents choose to share legal custody and consult with the other parent concerning major decisions like healthcare or change in schooling, but this is not always the case.
In addition, some parents, even after a combative custody battle, choose to split physical custody jointly. In other cases, if there is no cooperation, the judge will award joint or sole physical custody. For joint physical custody, schedules vary. Some parents rotate weekends, other parents use a 4-3 or 2-3-2 schedule. In other words, one parent has physical custody for 4 days, Monday through Thursday for example, then a coordinated drop-off occurs, and the other parent has physical custody for the other three days. The marital settlement agreement and/or parenting plan usually identifies protocol for holidays, parent and child birthdays and vacations. Usually parents also alternate claiming the child or children as a dependent for tax liabilities.
Sole physical custody means one parent is awarded primary custody, with visitation rights granted to the other parent. Visitation might be weekly, biweekly or even monthly, and it also may or may not be supervised. Supervised visitation is ordered by a judge if there is evidence to suggest the visiting parent is unwell, unsavory or has a history of drug use, abuse or violence. Supervised visitation can be assigned for a periodic term and is reviewed on a routine basis.
Lastly, regarding major life changes, a parent with primary custody cannot move to another state without previously consulting with the other parent, especially if doing so would negatively impinge or thwart the other parent’s visitation rights. If parties have shared legal custody, decisions regarding schooling and upbringing must be made collaboratively. If all attempts to communicate or work cooperatively fail, the parties should consult with counsel. If necessary, an emergency custody hearing or modifications to a custody order can be made after review by the presiding judge.
Contact Bubley & Bubley, P.A. for assistance
You should not try to go it alone when it comes to your child’s best interests. Determining child custody is an astronomical decision that can have long-lasting consequences on the life of the child and parents. It is a decision that a judge does not make lightly, and the courts encourage parents to be civil, respectful and collaborative regarding their child’s upbringing and daily life. Otherwise, turmoil will ensue, and the child is caught in the middle. If you are facing a contentious custody battle or need modifications to a current custody order, contact our Tampa child custody attorneys at Bubley & Bubley, P.A. We can schedule a consultation to assist you with all family law matters including urgent custody needs.