During your marriage, you and your spouse might have been the type of couple who split all your parenting duties evenly. On the other hand, one of you may have been a main provider in one area, such as driving the kids to activities, while the other was more of a disciplinarian. Either way, you no doubt had your own unique way of doing things in your family and each took your role as a parent seriously.
Now that you're preparing to end your marriage in a West Virginia court, you have both agreed to make things as non-stressful as possible for your kids. However, when the subject of child custody came up, you could tell things were not going to go smoothly. Child custody situations can be complicated. Understanding the various types of custody may help you avoid major problems as well as develop a parenting plan that focuses on your children's best interests.
Basic types of custody
If you hear someone use the term "custody," it's a bit too broad to understand exactly to what type of arrangement he or she is referring. There are several types of child custody in West Virginia and all other states, and understanding the differences between them may help you more easily navigate divorce proceedings that include child custody issues. The following list provides a basic explanation of each:
- Most people are familiar with physical child custody. You might also have heard the phrase "custodial parent" in relation to physical custody issues. Basically, if you have physical custody of your kids, this means they live with you.
- The court may order joint physical custody or sole physical custody in your divorce. If it's the latter, that would mean only one parent lives with the children full time. In this case, the court would typically grant visitation rights to the other parent.
- If you and your former spouse plan on living close in distance to each other after divorce, you may seek joint physical custody of your children. The court usually does not grant this type of custody if parents live in separate states or far away from each other, as it could be stressful for children to be shuttled back and forth.
- Legal custody, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing. If the court grants you legal custody of your children, you have the authority to make decisions regarding their education, health, faith and other major issues in their lives. Again, the court may order joint legal custody or sole legal custody, depending on the circumstances.
If your former spouse has a serious substance abuse problem or some other problem that leads the court to believe he or she is unfit to parent, you may get sole legal and physical custody of your children. Knowing that you want what's best for your kids, the court reviews all factors, as well as state guidelines, before rendering a decision in custody matters.
In all situations, the court deems children's welfare of highest priority and will do its best to issue an order that gives your family the best chances of moving toward a successful future together. If you have a particular problem regarding custody, you can reach out for support from someone well-versed in West Virginia child custody law.