Child Custody

In any divorce involving children, the court is required to determine legal and custodial rights over the children. There are two types of custody issues generally involved: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody involves the ability to make decisions about the health, education, religion, extracurricular activities, and other broad categories of child rearing. In most circumstances, a court will grant legal custody to both parents jointly. This means that both parents must consult one another concerning the issues related to care of the child. However, problems can arise when there is a disagreement between the divorced parents concerning one or more of these areas. Thus, it is often necessary for one party to be the final decision maker. This eliminates the need for parties to rush back to court for routine issues. In resolving their divorce issues, the parties should work out a suitable arrangement for dealing with disputes before the divorce is finalized. Some options include having a mediator appointed in the case of a post-divorce child rearing dispute.

Ms. McCarthy can assist a party in crafting an agreement which deals with unexpected issues involving legal custody while eliminating unnecessary legal costs so that parties can avoid re-litigating issues once the divorce is finalized.

Physical custody can be a more challenging area of divorce if the parties do not agree. If the parties cannot agree, the court will usually appoint a primary physical custodian of the child. This person generally has custody of the child during the school week and every other weekend. The non-custodial parent has visitation rights with the child. This can be a traditional every other weekend schedule, however, often the non-custodial parent will be given weeknight visitation, and/or some extended overnight visitation. It is also not unusual to have more time with the child over the summer or holidays depending on the work schedules and proximity of the parents.

Lately, some couples are choosing to jointly share physical custody of the children. This is often preferred when children are older and able to transport thermselves or where the parties in the case live in close proximity to one another. If they often share scheduling needs, joint physical custody may be a viable solution. In a joint custody case, neither party is presumed to be the primary physical caretaker. In these instances, the parties make efforts to split time equally with the children with one party caring for the child(ren) full time one week and the other parent on the alternating weeks of days. While this may be a great way to maximize the time each parent spends with the children, the courts and many advocates are cautious when considering this approach due to the changes in the routines which might negatively impact the children. Thus, it is important to hire a law firm dedicated to working out the particular details of such an arrangement to ensure that the court and the parties will find such arrangement in the best interests of the child. If the parties choose this option, Ms. McCarthy is dedicated to working out details with the parties so that this arrangement can thrive.

In most instances, the courts and the parties should strive to foster a loving relationship between both parents with liberal rules regarding visitation. Ms. McCarthy strives to find workable solutions to parents to deal with the difficult and often time consuming role as caregivers for children. She works with her clients to ensure there is a child custodial arrangement that will provide a loving and nurturing environment for the children over the long term, while respecting the bond between both parents. Nevertheless, there may be circumstances where it is not appropriate for a child to have unsupervised visitation with one or more parents. This may involve issues of substances abuse, domestic violence, psychological disorders or other problems which affect a parent’s ability to properly nurture the child. Ms. McCarthy is dedicated to protecting children from abuse. As an advocate on behalf of both parents and children, cases involving questions of fitness of a parent often necessitate the hiring of a case evaluator or a guardian ad litem to evaluate the living conditions and parenting abilities of the parties. Ms. McCarthy helps her clients understand and navigate this often challenging area of law.