For divorcing parents, issues of child custody can be central points of
contention, with disputes often heading into the courtroom. When taken
before a judge, custody will be determined based on a child’s best
interest and there is a strong presumption that both parents should be
included in an agreement. However, it may not always be possible to award
joint custody. For example: what happens when parents move far away or
out of state?
When determining post-divorce parental responsibilities, the two separate
types of custody to consider include:
Joint Physical custody refers to the concept that the parents will consult with each other on
all major decisions affecting their child, such as medical, educational
and religious decisions. The amount of time the child spends with each
parent could be equal or could be primarily with one parent. Even where
the parents reside close to each other, the court will not impose a shared
equal parenting schedule unless the parties are willing to do so since
the level of cooperation required is much higher. At a minimum, there
will always be a schedule of parenting time including holidays, school
recesses and summer vacation.
Sole Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about their child’s
life without consultation with the other parent. Nevertheless, the sole
custodial parent may still be required to keep the other parent informed
of all major decisions affecting the child. Typically, where the parents’
relationship has been damaged by domestic violence, mental illness, alcohol
or drug abuse there is a greater likelihood of sole legal custody. Even
in this scenario there still is a parenting schedule that may be similar
to the schedule among joint custodial parents.
Out of state moves can further complicate matters. Legal issues that arise
will be resolved following the laws of the child’s home state, typically
the location where a child has lived for the past six months or the state
in which they parents were divorced if one parent is still a resident
of that state.
Modifications and Relocation
Another scenario where distance can affect custody occurs when a parent
desires to move out of state
after the terms of custody have been set. Moving with a child is not as simple
as packing up and leaving. A custodial parent should request, and a judge
must approve, a modification to any existing agreements. Relocations are
not easily granted and, just like with initial custody agreements, decisions
will be made based on the best interest of the child. Generally, it must
be shown that there has been a substantial change in circumstance that
has occurred which directly affects the life or wellbeing of the child.
The burden will always be on the parent that wishes to relocate. However,
if the non-custodial parent has not been active in the child’s life
while the child resides locally, then it will be much easier to get judicial
permission due to the lack of parenting when the child lived nearby.
Legal Help for Child Custody Agreements
Few issues may be more important than the well-being of your child and
if you are currently involved in a custody dispute, you may be left to
fight for what is in your family’s best interest. Know that you
do not have to go through this process alone and our firm is only a phone
call away. Backed by more than three decades of experience, our Suffolk
County divorce attorneys can be in your corner each step of the way to
see that your voice is heard.
Call (631) 629-6874 or request a free consultation online to speak to an
attorney about your child custody dispute.