Divorce is hard. And it’s even harder when children are involved. Here are questions you need to ask your lawyer about your child custody agreement.
Going through a divorce is hard. When you’re handling the stress that comes with ending a class relationship, managing legal matters, and getting ready to start your new life, thinking about your custody agreement may be the last thing you want to do.
Child custody can easily be one of the most difficult things to handle when you’re dealing with a divorce. Changing your entire approach to parenting can be hard, especially if you aren’t on good terms with your ex.
When some people talk to their child custody lawyer they don’t know the right questions to ask. It’s important to ask questions upfront so you can understand what arrangement is truly best for you and your child.
If you’re going to start thinking about child custody, make sure you read this post before you talk to your lawyer. We’re going to give you a quick rundown on the most common kinds of custody arrangements then dive into an important list of must-ask questions for your lawyer.
The Common Custody Agreement: A Primer
Before we dive into important questions to ask your family lawyer we want to take a few moments to run down important things you should know about common custody arrangements.
Understanding the typical custody arrangements you’ll have to choose from can help frame your conversation with your lawyer. Once you know what to expect, you’ll be better prepared to ask the right questions.
When a parent has physical custody that means that they have a right to have their child live with them.
If a child primarily lives with one parent while the other has visitation, usually the parent the child spends the most time with will have primary physical custody. Parents in this situation are called custodial parents.
Parents that have legal custody of a child means that they have the right to make decisions about a child’s upbringing. This can include rules around a child’s religious practices, medical care, and schooling.
If you have joint custody of your child that usually means that both parents could be considered to have legal custody.
Parents with joint custody of their kids can more or less be considered equal when it comes to parenting duties and rights. Each parent has a say in how kids are raised and could be considered to have both physical and legal custody of their child.
It’s important to note that joint custody may not always mean that parents have equal time with their kids.
In some cases, one parent may have their children live with them during the summer then only see them on weekends or on holidays. Others may choose to alternate weeks or months with their child. The arrangement typically depends on what’s best for the child and what each parent is capable of.
In some situations, it’s possible for some parents to have sole custody of their child. This means that only one parent has legal and physical custody of a child.
You should note that having sole custody doesn’t mean that the child is completely cut off from one parent. It isn’t unusual to still have supervised or unsupervised visits with their child.
Sole custody is typically only awarded in unique situations. If a parent is deemed unfit for reasons around substance abuse, neglect, or child abuse the other parent can be awarded joint custody.
5 Must-Ask Questions Your Child Custody Lawyer
Now that you know what to expect in terms of custody arrangements, it’s time to focus on important questions to ask your lawyer.
The right questions can give you important insight into what to expect during the custody process. It can also ensure that you’re well informed about your options and your rights.
Everyone will have unique questions of their own when they first start talking to lawyers. Regardless of what’s on the top of your question list, make sure you ask your lawyer these important questions.
1. Can We/Should We Settle Out of Court?
After you’ve spent months in court trying to figure out the terms of your divorce the last thing you may want to do is end up in front of the judge again. When you give your child custody lawyer the details about your divorce be sure to ask them if they think you need to go to court.
If you and your ex are more or less on the same page about going forward on custody, you may be able to settle this outside of court. Remember, settling outside of court doesn’t mean that you won’t have a legal custody agreement. Both of your lawyers will still handle the paperwork and make things legal, you just won’t need a judge to decide things.
It’s also important to note that going to court isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Did you have a difficult divorce, or do you and your ex have very different opinions on your upcoming custody arrangement? If so, having a judge settle things may be best for everyone involved.
2. What Say Does My Child Have in Custody Arrangements?
In the state of Texas children that are 12 and older will have their opinions considered when you decide custody.
Ultimately, a minor won’t be able to 100% decide which parent they want to live with or make decisions for them. However, once they reach a certain age their opinions will be a big factor in what the judge decides.
If you have any concerns about this, be sure to discuss them in-depth with your lawyer. People that suspect parental alienation or that their ex may be trying to manipulate their child into making a certain decision should talk to their lawyers as soon as possible.
3. Am I Being Realistic?
We understand that determining custody can be a very emotional time for everyone involved. Regardless of how you feel about your upcoming agreement, it’s important to make sure that you’re being realistic about what to expect.
You may have had an awful divorce with your spouse and may prefer to not have them see your child. However, if they’re still a good parent and haven’t been deemed unfit, it’s very unlikely that you’d be granted sole custody.
Don’t think it’s possible to only be unrealistic if you’re thinking about sole custody. A parent that wants to have joint custody with an ex that travels a lot for work or is planning on moving isn’t being realistic either.
Take some time to think about your ideal custody outcome before you talk to your lawyer. Be sure to take note of what drove you to that decision and explain how you think it would benefit every party involved. After you figure that out, your lawyer can give you advice on if what you want is possible.
4. How Can I Help My Case?
Don’t assume that all you need to do to get the custody arrangement you want is to show up in court. Custody arrangements can get complicated, and there are a lot of factors that a judge will use to decide what’s best.
Ask your lawyer if there’s anything you could do that could help your case. There may be some simple things you can do now that can help you get the outcome you want.
Parents that want any kind of custody need to show that they’re involved in their kid’s lives and that they’re able to take care of them. Something as simple as being your child’s little league coach or being the parent that handles doctor’s appointments could help your case.
Ask your lawyer about what documents you should start to gather. Some may recommend phone logs, medical records, or a written parenting plan.
5. Will This Custody Arrangement Affect Other Financial Arrangements?
Do you have a standing child support agreement with your ex? Do you or your ex have to pay alimony? If so, make sure that your lawyer is aware of that before you start working on custody arrangements.
Depending on what you agreed upon in court when you ended your marriage, changing custody agreements could change the amount of financial compensation you receive or pay.
In some cases, nothing will change in terms of financial obligations. In others, agreeing to a certain custody arrangement could mean that you receive less money or have to pay more.
It’s important to have a clear understanding of how your finances could be affected depending on the outcome of your case. Consider spending a little time with an accountant or financial planner if you’re expecting a big change.
Get the Legal Help You Need
Coming to a custody agreement may not be simple, but it doesn’t have to be painful or confusing. Taking the time to understand common custody agreements and asking your lawyer the right questions could lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.
Asking the right questions is important, but finding the right lawyer to answer them is crucial. It’s time to find someone that you can trust and can fight for your rights in court.
Are you about to go through a divorce and want to know what to expect for custody? Have you thought about making changes to your current agreement?
Regardless of what your most pressing concern is, we’re here to assist you with whatever you need. Be sure to contact us today so we can talk about the best way to help your case.