Determining the Child Custody Arrangement That is Right for You and Your Family

Divorce is one of the most life-changing decisions that two people can make, but when children are involved, it can be an incredibly difficult subject. It’s normal to feel unsure when you are trying to determine the best solution for your newly separated family, all while navigating the legal terms that may be unfamiliar to you. That’s why it is extremely important to consult the guidance of a divorce attorney skilled in child custody matters when you are going through a divorce.

There are four different types of child custody arrangements in West Virginia that you should be aware of before finalizing your divorce case. These arrangements include legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and joint custody. Creating a positive, consistent custody agreement will not only make it easier for the two ex-spouses involved, but it can also help children get used to their new normal. However, if parents cannot agree on an arrangement, it is up to the judge to determine what is the best situation for the children involved. 

What does it mean when a parent has legal custody?

If a parent has legal custody, he or she has the right to make decisions for the well-being of the children. Such decisions could include which school to send the children to for their education, what type of religious upbringing they will have, medical care like receiving vaccinations, and more. Legal custody can either involve one parent or both parents, as you will see further on.

How does physical custody differ from legal custody?

Physical custody is often what most parents are most concerned about during a divorce proceeding because it determines which parent gets to spend the most time with the children. When the children live primarily with one parent, the other parent generally has visitation rights. It is important to note that the parents can get joint physical custody, which many judges determine to be in the best interest of children because they have access to both parents. Physical custody means that the primary caretaker is responsible for the food, shelter, clothing, and life essentials of the children.

What is sole custody?

When sole custody is determined, only one parent has custody of the children. This custody arrangement is typically for parents who are unable to agree on what is best for their children and how to raise them. A parent can have sole legal custody, sole physical custody, or both. This type of custody arrangement can also be awarded if one parent is deemed unfit due to drugs, alcohol, abuse, or some other issue, including not having the best interests for the children in mind. However, some judges allow the other parent to have supervised visits with the children if there is no threat of harm. It’s important to note that even if the other parent pays child support or does get time with their children, they have no say in the parental decisions of the children – only the parent awarded sole custody has these rights. 

How is joint custody different from sole custody?

When joint custody is determined, both parents typically have the same amount of time with the children, are responsible for day-to-day happenings in the child’s life, and are involved in the decision-making processes of how to raise the children. Parents can be awarded joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. Parents are often awarded joint physical custody, which means that both parents are not only responsible for the health and happiness of their children, but food, shelter, clothing, and other life essentials as well. An example of this could include one parent dropping off the kids at school while the other picks them up afterward, spending one week with a parent and the next week with the other parent, or alternating months, years, holidays, and/or weekends. Joint custody is especially useful when the parents live near one another. If a parent lives out of state or hours away, joint custody can still be awarded but will have to have the details worked out further more than likely. Child support is often not awarded to either parent in this agreement, but it is not unusual for it to be arranged where one parent receives child support1 from the other for the benefit of the children. 

Which arrangement is right for my family?

Knowing which child custody arrangement is best for your family can be difficult. If you require legal guidance and representation, we’d be happy to walk you through the process and help you to determine the best solution. We will fight for you and your kids – contact us now to set up your free consultation with Bradford Law Offices, PLLC.

4 Different Types of Child Custody You Should Be Aware of in West Virginia | Family Law Attorney WV