Custody and Access
The single most important thing parents need to work out in a divorce is the way they will continue to raise their children, and it’s always best if they can work out this plan cooperatively.
There are many questions that must be resolved, such as where the children will live, how much time they will spend with either parent, where they will spend holidays, and which parent will make decisions about the children. One or both parents might make legal decisions, such as where the children will go to school and what medical care or medication they will receive. Parents also have to resolve issues about the religious training and activities of the children.
Parents are not the only people who have an interest in parenting plans. Other people who have had a significant relationship with a child, such as grandparents and stepparents, can petition for visitation rights.
If the parents can’t agree on these issues, the court will consider the best interests of the children in resolving the conflicts. The court will look at the gender of the parents and children, their physical and mental health, emotional bonds, the effect on children of changing their living situation, and—if a child is around 12 years or older—the child’s preference. The court also considers practical matters such as the ability of the parents to provide the necessities of life, such as shelter, food, and clothing. Court orders involving children are never final. They can always be changed if the best interests of the children require it. If there’s a change in circumstances while the children are minors, the parents can always go back to the court that made the original order and ask for a change.