There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Think of the word “custody” as an umbrella. Under the umbrella you need to address who makes the major decisions regarding the child (legal custody) and where the child lives (physical custody). Do you and your ex have the ability to communicate? Can you make major decisions together? If you can answer yes to those questions, then perhaps joint legal custody is what would work best. Where does the child live? Does each parent spend equal amounts of time with the child? Or does one parent have the child more than the other parent? Depending on how you answer those questions, the parents will share physical custody, or one parent will have primary physical custody of the child. Once those issues are addressed, then the parents need to determine a visitation (parenting time) schedule.
Ultimately, the best interests of the child – NOT the parents’ – will be considered during the court proceeding. The Judge and attorneys will discuss the child’s needs, and any concerns they may have with the parents. These concerns will likely be addressed in the Order as well, in the form of “shall not” provisions. For example, the parties shall not consume non-prescription drugs or alcohol in the child’s presence.
Once the Order of Custody is signed by the Judge, it is mailed to the parents, the child’s school and/or daycare, treating physicians, and anyone else who may be regularly involved in the child’s life. These providers will then have a better understanding of which parent or parents are responsible for the child.