Child custody cases are complex and many parents who haven't been through it before feel overwhelmed. They have so many questions.
To help, here are four common questions and the answers:
1. How do legal and physical custody differ?
Legal custody centers on the power to make decisions for the child, such as health care decisions in the hospital. Physical custody is just the child's living situation. Even if your ex gets full physical custody, you can still get legal custody.
2. What factors influence custody decisions?
If the court has to decide which parent will get custody, or if both will share it, they'll consider things like the parents' living situations, their ability to provide, the relationships the child already has with them and the child's own wishes.
3. Can two people make a custody arrangement without the court?
No. You can certainly agree on how you want it to work, but you still have to go to court to file the paperwork and get it approved. You cannot just decide what you want to do and move forward without that court order.
4. Can orders be modified?
Certainly. Again, you must go through the court, which wants to see a valid reason for the modification. Reasons could include one parent passing away, the child being in an unsafe living situation, one parent's desire to relocate and the like.
Above all else, make sure you know what legal steps to take. Remember that court orders are binding and the court will fight for the best interests of the child. Knowing how the laws apply to your case and what rights you have is a good place to start.
Source: The Spruce, "Answers to Parents' Top 20 Questions About Child Custody," Jennifer Wolf, accessed Dec. 06, 2017