After a divorce, one of the most important issues to resolve besides alimony and property division is child custody. Many people think that child custody is simply the right to live with a child. However, child custody can be a lot more complicated than that. Physical custody refers to the child’s living arrangements, while legal custody means the right to make crucial decisions for the child, including schooling, medical care and religion.

Separated or divorced parents who fail to agree on custody issues can take the matter to court and let a judge decide for them. Custody laws seek to safeguard the future of the child and see to it that parents meet his or her needs and rights. In some cases, an attorney can represent the child to express his or her wishes to the court. Here are some of the basic legal details when it comes to child custody.

Sole and joint custody

Joint custody is a way of providing shared physical and legal custody of the child to both parents. This means that both parents can share time living with the child and participate in making major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing and care.

Sole custody refers to a situation where only one parent has legal and physical custody of the child. The court may deem it appropriate to give the noncustodian parent visitation rights. The judge makes the decision of either joint or sole custody based on the child’s best interests and the parents’ willingness to cooperate.

Custody order

The judge may consider several factors in determining an established custody environment with one or both parents to decide on custody arrangements. The court may look at factors, such as the moral fitness of parties involved, capacity for love and affection, reasonable preferences of the child, and financial abilities when deciding on the custody order.

The judge may adjust the custody order if the party asking for changes can show either a change of circumstances or proper cause to warrant a revision of the custody order. The custody order may also affect child support, although in most cases, it is a different matter altogether. However, some of the decisions reached on the custody agreement can heavily influence child support payments for the parties involved.