Q: What does child custody mean?
A: Child custody is a term that Courts have moved away from; however, generally, in a divorce or custody proceeding both parenting time and decision making responsibilities must be allocated between the parents of a minor child.
Q: What do I file to get custody of my child if I have never been married to the other parent?
A: Generally, you would file a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities in your local district Court. You could also file a Petition for Paternity in Juvenile Court.
Q: What will a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities do?
A: An Allocation for Parental Responsibilities or "APR" case will decide parenting time, decision making, and child support.
Q: What will a Petition for Paternity do?
A: A Petition for Paternity will determine paternity, child support, parenting time and decision making. This may be necessary if the father of the child has denied being the child's biological parent. Usually, a DNA test will be ordered to determine paternity.
Q: What will the Judge look at in determining parenting time for a child?
A: Judges will look at the individual facts of each case, including, but not limited to: location of the parents in relation to one another, location of schools, both parent's work schedules, past parenting time, home environment of parents, parents' ability to foster the relationship between child and other parent, parents' ability to put the child's needs ahead of their own, and possibly what the child would like. However, the legal standard is the "best interests of the child."
Q: What is included in Decision Making?
A: Generally, parental decision making includes Religion, Education, Health and Welfare of the child. Day to day decision making would likely include all other decisions. Usually the parent with custody of the child that day would make day to day decisions for their child.
Q: How do I modify custody once a divorce or "APR" case has finished?
A: You can file a Motion to Modify Parenting Time as long as you have not filed the same motion within the last 2 years. You can also agree with the other parent at any time and modify parenting time in writing and file it with the Court.
Q: How will a Court decide how to rule on a Motion to Modify Parenting time?
A: To modify parenting time, the moving party has the burden to prove that the change is in the best interest of the child, and if the moving party is requesting a substantial change in custody, then they must prove that the child will suffer physical or emotional harm if custody is not changed.
Q: What are my chances of 50/50 custody?
A: Without knowing specifics of your case, it is impossible for anyone to say what a likely outcome would be. However, Courts today generally favor an equal parenting time split as opposed to the children spending most of their time with one parent, and very little with the other, when such a division is possible and appropriate.
Q: What are my chances of full custody?
A: Without knowing the specifics of your case, it is impossible for anyone to know what a likely outcome would be. However, full custody to one parent is usually only awarded where it can be shown that the other parent is unfit or unable to parent the minor child.