If you and your co-parent live apart, deciding matters relating to your children are likely your primary concern. Parents must determine where the children will live, how much time the non-residential parent will spend with them, and who makes decisions for them.
All these questions are aspects of child custody. A judge must review and approve any child custody agreement, so working with an experienced family attorney is critical to ensure your arrangement passes legal muster.
Whether you and your co-parent are on the same page or custody decisions are causing conflict, consult a local legal professional. A Lawrence child custody lawyer could help you determine the arrangement that will best serve your children and work towards accomplishing your child custody goals.
Custody Encompasses Multiple Issues
People sometimes think custody means where a child lives most of the time. While the child’s primary home is an aspect of custody, parents must address additional issues when they decide to live apart. Ideally, parents work together on these matters to develop a parenting plan covering all aspects of custody.
Legal custody means who makes major decisions for the child. Parents can share legal custody, or one parent can have exclusive legal custody. Having legal custody means the parent decides on the following matters regarding the children:
- Where they go to school
- What religion they practice
- What medications they may take
- Whether they should see a therapist
- Extracurricular activities they may participate in
- Whether they can cut their hair or get a tattoo or piercing
- Rules regarding curfews and which friends they spend time with
Even when a parent does not have legal custody, they may still access their children’s medical and school records.
Many parents share legal custody, and Kansas Statutes § 23-3206 favors shared legal custody. Parents who wish to share decision-making authority must demonstrate they can work together in the children’s best interests and have a method for resolving disputes. They should include their process for managing disagreements in the parenting plan, which a skilled Lawrence child custody attorney could help create.
Residential custody means where the children live most of the time. If work schedules and other factors permit, some parents share time with the children 50/50 or close to it.
In most families, the children live with one parent and visit the other regularly. Even if the parents share custody equally, one parent will be the residential parent, and their address will govern school registration and will be the children’s official address.
The non-residential parent gets parenting time, previously called visitation. The parents must decide on a schedule for the non-residential parent to have parenting time and include it in the parenting plan. For example, the plan should specify the dates the children will be with each parent, pick-up and drop-off times, who is responsible for transportation, and similar issues.
Parenting plans also might establish rules governing each parent’s behavior while with the children. For example, parents might decide there should be no alcohol use in front of the children, that they must consult each other before introducing the children to a new partner, or that they must not speak ill of the other parent to the children.
What Happens When a Judge Must Decide Custody Issues
Courts strongly prefer that parents decide custody between themselves, as they know their children’s needs and what arrangement will work best in their specific circumstances. However, when parents cannot agree, the judge will develop a parenting plan for the family.
The gender of the parent should not influence a court’s custody decision. Kansas Statutes § 23-3201 requires a judge to decide custody based solely on the children’s best interests. The judge could consider the following factors when determining the children’s best interests:
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- Their adjustment to their home, school, and community
- The child’s preferences and reasons for preferring to live with a parent
- Whether there is a parental history of substance abuse or family violence
- Which parent is most likely to support the children’s relationship with the other parent
- Which parent is best equipped to manage a child’s special physical, emotional, or educational needs
A capable child custody lawyer in Lawrence could help a parent develop a case demonstrating that living with them best serves the children’s interests.
If the judge must decide on custody issues, parents must adhere to the court’s order even if it does not work well for them. In most situations, they must demonstrate a material change in circumstances before they request the judge modify a custody decision.
Contact a Lawrence Child Custody Attorney for Help
Discussing child custody can trigger extreme emotions, even when both parents are committed to their children’s best interests. Working with an experienced attorney can help keep negotiations productive.
A Lawrence child custody lawyer can help you develop a parenting plan that works for your family and will likely receive judicial approval. When you and your co-parent cannot agree, a dedicated legal professional could ensure the judge understands your point of view. Call today to discuss your situation with a seasoned attorney.