Family Law and Child Custody Decisions

Child custody is a serious issue that takes up a considerable amount of effort to determine. If you are divorcing, you will want to know how the custody arrangement will be split, and what your role will be in making important life decisions for your child. If you are not a parent, but a close relative or family friend, you may be wondering if it is possible for you to take custody at all. How are these decisions made? For family and loved ones, this can be a major concern, especially if they don’t have a deeper understanding of family law.

Child Custody and Divorce

Generally, child custody decisions are made just like all matters in divorce proceedings: by the court, or by an agreement made between the couple going through a divorce. Custody decisions are resolved in one of two ways:

1. Parents may make an agreement with help from attorneys either through an informal settlement negotiation or through an out-of-court alternative like mediation which also usually involves attorneys.

2. The family court judge makes a decision about custody and visitation schedules.

In the Case of Unmarried Parents

If a child’s parents are unmarried, most states require the mother to have sole custody unless the father takes action for it. It is difficult for an unwed father to be awarded custody over a competent mother, but he is still able to secure visitation and some sort of custody or parenting time.

Unmarried parents differ from divorcing couples because they do not need to deal with division of marital property, spousal support like alimony or other marriage-related issues. The court proceedings are almost solely about child custody and maybe child support. This makes the process overall much more simple. The court will decide on schedules if the parents cannot make an agreement out of court. Typically the judge will try to identify which parent is the “primary caretaker”.

Non-Parental Guardians

Sometimes, other relatives will step in to take care of children. Some states recognize this as “third-party” or “non-parental” custody. There are specific procedures that one must follow if you are seeking non-parental custody. First, you must file a petition for custody which describes the relationship you have with the child, the status of the parents, and why you are seeking and should be awarded custody. The petition must also be delivered to the parents if they are alive.

Moving Forward

If you are concerned about how family law applies to your custody arrangement, consider hiring a lawyer such as the family law lawyer Tampa FL locals turn to. Your relationship with the child and their parents (if you are not parents) can be a determining force in your case and things could get complicated if you don’t have someone knowledgeable about family law by your side to advise you on your unique situation.

Thanks to authors at The McKinney Law Group for their insight into Family Law.