Frequently Asked Questions about Child Custody.

When is my child declared independent?
A child becomes legally independent at age 18 or 21 depending on the state where you live. Some factors that may contribute to a child's obtaining independence before their eighteenth or twenty-first birthday include: entering into the United States Military Service, getting married, becoming financially independent, or obtaining a permanent residence away from either parent.

How much influence does my child have in custody declaration?
Much of this depends upon the child's age. The older the child, the more influence he or she will be able to exert. Although the court does have the final say, the testimony of a child oftentimes places significant weight on the judicial scales.

What if the wife is pregnant at the time of separation and divorce?
The unborn child is to be treated no differently than any living child.

Does a homosexual parent have equal rights to custody?
The homosexual parent should have equal rights with the other parent, with the custody decision contingent upon the ultimate concern for the best interest and general welfare of the child. If under this criteria the homosexual parent measures best, then proper custody should be awarded.

Can custody rights change?
Absolutely. It is recommended that periodic evaluations of the parenting plan be made. This is important because so many factors can be modified or altered over a short period following the divorce, such as change in employment, residence, or marital status.

Who normally gets physical custody?
In majority of the cases, the mother is granted physical custody. However, in some instances, the mother works nights or is heavily involved in educational pursuit. In cases of this sort, physical custody is often granted to the father.

Are custody agreements necessary?
It is required by law, for at least one parent to always be legally responsible for the child. Any change in the status of custody rights must also always be made in concern with the judicial system.

Can a non-parent obtain custody of my child?
It is possible. However, the court must be petitioned with the case being presented that the nonparent has a meaningful relationship with the child, and that the welfare of the child is best in the nonparent's hands.

How is child custody jurisdiction established?
Recent laws have been passed concerning child-napping. If one parent disagrees with the court's decision, he or she might attempt to take the child to another state (each state has different guidelines ) which re-opens the issue of custodial rights. There are several elements which determine the proper state in which child custody is determined: length of time the child has resided in the state, any previous court proceedings regardless of respective state concerning child custody, the residency of each parent, and so on.

When is the right time to tell my child about the divorce?
Obviously, there could never be the perfect time or place. The ultimate concern should be to maintain complete honesty and integrity when discussing the situation with the child. Children are often much smarter than their youth might lead one to believe. The child should never be misled about the parent's relationship. If the marriage is over, they have a right to be told.

Can my child be used as a witness in court?
If the child is deemed to be of mature age and able to give reliable and consistent testimony, then eligibility to testify with respect to grounds and custodial issues can be granted.

During the time of separation, should I ask my child his or her preference for living arrangements?
Usually, if the child has not independently come forward with a stated preference, it is a strong indication that he or she does not wish to make that decision.

How long does the child custody evaluation process take?
Any evaluation should be initiated at least six weeks prior to the court date. This process should never be rushed or undertaken without full intentions of completion. A full evaluation takes about four weeks, assuming relative distance proximity between both the parents and the evaluator.

What is the typical judicial attitude towards custody?
Not surprisingly, the court favors the mother in custody decision. However, with changes in the socioeconomic structure of contemporary society, fathers are beginning to have a more significant parenting role.

What are parent's attitudes towards custody?
Again, not surprisingly, women usually seek custody more often than fathers, but the percentage of the fathers petitioning for custody is growing. This is very commonplace in a dual-income household.

After divorce, how do majority of parents react to custody arrangements?
Typically, the parents abide by the court-ordered arrangements for custody. However, it is not uncommon for the terms to change shortly after the divorce due to change in lifestyles (i.e., re-marrying, financial problems).