Parents who choose to get divorced must determine the living arrangements for any children they may have. Coming to an agreement on child custody is usually one of the most heated and contentious aspects of settling a divorce. When parents struggle to negotiate the terms of their child custody agreement, they have to go to court to get their dispute resolved by a judge. Below, we answer 4 common questions that divorcing parents ask us about their child custody disputes.
#1: Is There a Difference Between Legal & Physical Custody?
Physical custody refers to the parent the child will be primarily living with and who is responsible for their care. The parent who gets physical custody of the child receives support payments from the other parent to help with living expenses.
Legal custody covers decisions that have to be made for the child regarding things like healthcare, education, religion, and extracurricular activities. Courts designate one parent to be the primary physical custodian of the child, while the other parent is granted regular visitation rights. Most parents split legal custody 50/50 and share final decision making authority. Although courts often grant joint legal custody, they rarely grant 50/50 physical custody.
#2: Which Parent Gets Primary Physical Custody?
In the past, courts would presume that a child should live their mother. However, courts no longer follow this presumption when deciding which parent should be granted primary physical custody. The best interest of the child is the primary factor that determines who the child will be living with. If a child dispute becomes too contentious, a judge might decide in favor of the parent that has been most cooperative throughout the divorce proceedings.
#3: Is My Ex Allowed to See the Kids if They Haven’t Paid Child Support?
Although the paying parent is supposed to make their support payments on time, their ability to see their children is a completely separate issue. Being late on or missing a child support payment is not a valid reason to withhold visitation rights. In fact, preventing a parent from seeing their child can result in legal action being taken against the hostile parent. Courts will decide how parents who are delinquent on their payments should be penalized.
#4: Can a Parent Relocate After Their Divorce?
If a parent decides they want to move away after their divorce is final, they will need to make changes to their custody or visitation schedule to accommodate the needs of the child. It is important to note that custodial parents do not automatically get to keep custody of the child if they plan to relocate. Many divorce settlements have provisions to address the possible relocation of a parent beyond certain distances. These provisions typically ask for the agreement to be reviewed and will require courts to get involved if the parents can’t reach an agreement on their own.
At the Kallen Law Firm, LLC, we are committed to helping families in St. Luis resolve their disputes and move on to the next phase of their lives. If you are currently going through a child custody battle with your ex, we can review your case to make sure your rights are fully protected. We have the skills and resources that you need to reach a fair divorce settlement.
Contact our child custody attorneys in St. Luis to schedule your free case consultation today.