Child Custody And Access
Custody refers to the ability to make major decisions concerning health, education and religion. Access refers to parenting time, or the time that you actually spend with your child.
Custody and access is determined by the “best interests of the child”. What is in the best interests of your children is a factual inquiry. It is highly influenced by a judge’s theories on child development and good parenting. A lawyer who represents you for your custody and access case needs to be aware of the factors which a judge may consider in their decision to award custody and access. It is often wise to identify how the best interests of the child will be served by granting your access and custody request, to identify the ways in which the opposing party’s claim to custody and access will not serve the best interests of your children.
Custody and access court cases are rarely resolved with a single motion or trial. They involve long-term litigation. This is because the best interests of the children change frequently, based on their mental development and age, based on their school situation, and based on the circumstances of the parents. Typically, when a child is young, a child will reside primarily with one parent and will see the other parent for only a few hours a week. Overwhelmingly, the parent with the greatest access time when the children are young will be the mother. As the children become older, it is common for the father to increase his access time. Lawyers for fathers typically try to increase the access which the father has gradually and slowly over a number of years. Lawyers for mothers typically try to decrease the rate at which fathers have access, and prevent them from increasing access.
A child’s attendance record at school, late attendance, their grades, the presence of any developmental delays are all objective, third party evidence, which can be used in a custody and access dispute. If children are thriving with one parent, it will be harder for the other parent to increase their access. If the children are struggling with one parent, the other one has a better chance at increasing access. In families where there are many children, it is often the case that one child will have difficulties of some sort (school, interpersonal, mental health, developmental, etc.) while the other child will be fine. In such cases, it may be appropriate for a different access schedule to apply to each child.
If you obtain a new partner after divorce or separation, you are likely to incur the wrath of the other parent. Having a new partner creates all sorts of problems in custody and access cases.
Before committing to a custody and access case, it is advisable to meet with a lawyer. Your family lawyer should be able to direct you to begin gathering evidence to support your case. Your best shot at winning your case will depend on objective, and quality third party evidence. A quality lawyer can create an action plan for you to begin to build your case.