One of the most difficult realizations for parents in the process of a divorce is knowing that their children's lives will be forever changed. Humans are creatures of habit and changing the lifestyle and living conditions for a child can be traumatic. That is why, in a divorce, the best interests of the child are always the primary objective and guiding rule in the decision-making process.
While parents always must address typical aspects of divorce, such as alimony and property division, when children are involved, they also must address issues related to child custody and child support. There are different forms of child custody, including legal, physical, joint and sole custody.
Legal custody allows one parent the power to make all decisions related to a child's upbringing. Physical custody determines where a child lives most of the time; the parent who does not have physical custody is granted visitation rights.
In joint custody arrangements, both parents are involved in every aspect of the child's upbringing. Decisions regarding the child's education, health, religion and social interactions are all decided upon mutually by both parents. Due to the inherent tension between ex-spouses in many divorces, this form of custody is relatively rare, as it requires a healthy relationship between both parents that enables them to make mutually agreeable decisions.
If a parent is deemed unfit or is considered unable or not responsible enough to properly care for his or her child, sole custody may be awarded to the other parent. This often occurs if one parent is violent or absent.
As you begin the process of a divorce, it is important to learn about all of the possibilities that are under consideration with regard to child custody. They say that "knowing is half the battle" and this is especially true when it comes to understanding your rights and expectations while going through a divorce.
Source: FindLaw, "Custody Considerations: Step by Step", accessed March 31, 2015