Every family’s unique, so after divorce you’ll need to come to a child custody arrangement that suits you and your child’s distinct needs. Whatever that arrangement may be it needs to help ease the transition for your little one and ensure they thrive in the future.
Luckily, there are several options for organising child custody – most of which don’t involve a visit to the family court. To help you understand your options we’ve taken a closer look at the most common types of child custody after divorce.
Making formal arrangements after divorce
Before you make other arrangements or go to a family court both you should know that usually both parents are assumed to have equal, joint responsibility for a child’s care. That means both parents must make key decisions around where the child stays, where they’re educated and who they spend time with.
However, once a divorce occurs usually parents need to make other, more formal arrangements, such as a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document that sets out:
- Living arrangements.
- Financial contributions
- Schedules for visitation and care.
- Important decisions like school and religion.
It’s a good idea to get the help of an experienced family lawyer at this early stage to ensure your parenting plan is thorough and equitable. You should also get your kids involved so that their wishes are considered and they understand what’s going to happen.
The two types of custody
Generally speaking there are two types of legal custody, or what the court may refer to as ‘parenting arrangements’:
- Sole custody: One parent is responsible for the child.
- Joint custody: Where both parents have responsibility.
Importantly, joint custody is preferred by the courts as they assume that it’s in the child’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Joint custody comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes decisions will be made jointly and the children will spend equal amounts of time with each parent (one week on, one week off for example. Other times one parent will take on more responsibility and the other may see the child on the weekends, every second week or on the holidays.
What works for one family won’t work for another – any arrangement should take into account your unique circumstances and the needs of your child.
What if we can’t agree?
If you and your ex can’t agree on what type of custody arrangement is best for you and your child, you can begin a legal process.
- Once you’ve tried to make a parenting plan you’ll need to visit a family dispute resolution expert to try to resolve any disagreements amicably among each other.
- If that doesn’t work it’s time to find an experienced family law expert. They’ll help you understand your legal position, negotiate with your ex and take the next steps if necessary.
- Finally, as a last resort you can seek parenting orders. You’ll have to provide a certificate proving you visited a family dispute resolution expert before you do this.
If a resolution can’t be reached at this stage, the court may commission a ‘family report’ to fully understand the dynamics of your family and how any parenting arrangement will affect the child. Once this report is complete they’ll make a decision, which is legally binding.
Get help early
Organising child custody after a divorce can be incredibly stressful (not to mention confusing) so it’s always best to seek the help of an experienced and compassionate family lawyer early in the process.
The team here at Testart have helped hundreds of parents come to fair, practical arrangements that help their children thrive. We aim to make the process as stress-free and easy as possible and make every effort to help you resolve issues amicably outside of court. If that’s not possible we’ll prepare you to give you the best possible chance of achieving a good result in court.
Get in touch today to book a free first consultation and get started.