Do I need to go to court to get custody of my child?
Among the matters to be determined in a child custody agreement are physical and legal custody and visitation schedules. Physical custody refers to where the child actually lives, while legal custody describes who makes important decisions on the child’s behalf. In both cases, joint custody (in which the parents share the physical and legal responsibilities) is possible, and while the law presupposes that each parent has equal custody rights, the splits don't have to be equal. When one parent is granted sole custody of the child, however, visitation privileges must also be determined.
Within the issues of custody and visitation are further legal nuances that need to be established in a written document. Child support, for instance, may be paid by one party depending on a variety of circumstances, while supervised visitation can be granted if one parent has questionable parental status. The two divorcing spouses may also wish to come to an agreement on a parenting plan, which describes how the parties will raise their child/children.
If you can't reach an out-of-court custody arrangement, you will need to go to court, at which point the “best interest of the child” will be the primary consideration for all custody matters. Of course, your interests are also important, and you may be privy to information that shows your former spouse is not a good choice for custody or visitation.
However, even after the court reaches a final custody decision, a custody order may be modified.
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