Child custody is often one of the most complex and difficult issues to resolve in divorce. Parents who understand the benefit of allowing the children to maintain strong relationships with both parents after divorce may choose to draft a joint custody plan. This will allow the kids to have regular contact with both biological parents.
Joint custody is beneficial for many Utah families, but it is prudent for you to understand what this means for your kids and your parental rights before you move forward with this decision. As with all choices that could impact you and your children, it is helpful to weigh all options. Custody decisions are hard, but you do not have to make them on your own.
What does joint custody really mean?
While joint custody does allow both parents to have regular access with the kids, that does not necessarily mean that your parenting time will be exactly equal with the other parent. Even in joint custody arrangements, parents must address physical custody and legal custody.
Legal custody and physical custody will impact the time you get with your kids and your rights as a parent. The differences between these two are as follows:
- Legal custody is a parent's right to make decisions on behalf of his or her child. This can include decisions related to important matters like religious upbringing, education and medical care.
- Physical custody is the amount of time a parent will have with his or her child, including weekend visitation, holiday time and more.
In a true joint custody arrangement, you and the other parent will share both legal and physical custody. However, depending on the nature of your individual situation, it may be better for one parent to have legal custody while sharing physical custody. Each family is different, and each custody plan should suit the unique needs of the individual family.
Protecting your parental rights
You have the right to pursue the custody arrangement you believe would best work for you and protect the best interests of your children. If this is joint custody, you will still find it beneficial to seek guidance as you craft the terms of your order and address specific issues.
One step toward protecting your parental rights is to seek a complete evaluation of your case before you make any important decisions. Before you agree to joint custody or other type of custody plan, you should take steps to ensure you are laying the foundation for a strong future.