For divorcing couples with children establishing custody of the children is one of the most difficult things to do. Breaking up as a couple is one thing, but breaking up as a family is another.
Other than in extreme cases of abuse or violence both parents will be expected and will expect to share the upbringing of the children in some form or another. It generally works out that one parent, normally the mother, will have the children for most of the time and the other parent, generally the father, will have the children every other weekend and half the holiday time.
In an ideal world the parents, and children if they are old enough, will reach a decision jointly. This is the least stressful method. A mediator can help parents to talk through the options and it is recommended that parents attempt to use a mediator to come to an agreement before they go through the courts.
If your case does have to be decided by a judge there is no set pattern to follow. A range of factors will be taken into account, the first and foremost being the welfare of the child. Other factors will include where the child will be living, who has been the main parent, where the child will be educated, the suitability of the parents and if the child is old enough then the wishes of the child may also be taken into account.
Once custody has been awarded to one parent then the visiting schedule and maintenance payments from the other parent need to be decided. If there is a risk that the parent will put the child in danger then very controlled visits will be arranged. However, for most situations the visits will involve weekends, holidays and perhaps some weekday evenings.
Again, the judge will take a full range of different factors into account in order to set out the visiting schedule. Once it is in place it is vital that both parents stick to it and communicate clearly with each other.
Both parents will remain responsible for the well being of the child and the judge will explain the duties of each parent. These will involve providing a stable and loving home, an education, and security. There will also be agreements in place about informing the other parent of serious incidents, such as injuries or school issues and about going on foreign holidays with the child.
When arranging the custody of a child it is vitally important that you seek the help of a family lawyer, who can either guide you through the mediation process or can represent you in court to ensure that you don’t lose out on precious time with your child.