A divorce can be an extremely emotional, contentious, and tedious process, especially when one or more children are involved. In some states (such as South Carolina), unfavorable divorce laws make obtaining a divorce within a reasonable time downright tricky.
Many of these difficulties arise because of the many hoops spouses must jump through to finalize their divorce proceedings.
Moreover, in some divorce cases, one parent tries to obtain full custody of the child or children of the marriage.
When that happens, you need to retain an experienced Myrtle Beach divorce lawyer in your jurisdiction who can handle your case from start to finish, file the necessary court motions on your behalf, represent you at a legal hearing (including a trial), and aggressively advocate for all of your legal rights and interests.
In most situations, courts will base custody decisions on the best interests of the child or children involved in a marriage.
Your attorney can argue that another parent is unfit to have sole custody and that both parents should share custody. Your lawyer can also establish that you, rather than your ex-spouse, can best meet your child's needs and supply them with the proper home environment they need to flourish.
Your lawyer can aggressively fight for your legal rights at every stage of your case and help you pursue a custody decision that is in your favor and your child’s best interests.
Filing for Child Custody
There are several ways that a parent can obtain full custody of their child. First, a parent may file for child custody and ultimately get full custody of their child as part of divorce proceedings.
Sometimes, when this happens, the court may appoint a lawyer or a guardian ad litem to represent the child. This individual can meet with the child, spend some time with them, and subsequently draft a report that states what is likely in the child's best interests as far as parental custody is concerned.
Additionally, you and your ex-spouse may have to take one or more parenting classes designed to assist divorcing parents with addressing all of these extraordinarily complex and challenging issues with their children.
Another option is for an individual to pursue child custody through a paternity hearing.
For example, if you or your partner were not legally married at the time your child was born, a test may become necessary to officially establish the child’s paternity. After a paternity test is complete and the test establishes that you are the child's parent, you can file a separate petition to obtain full custody.
Finally, a parent can submit a counter-claim for child custody to the court. This type of arrangement may be beneficial when a parent disagrees with a proposed parenting plan after receiving divorce papers from their spouse.
In that situation, an individual can file a counter-claim within a certain time. However, if they do not file their counter-claim on time, they may waive their legal right to custody of their child, depending upon the jurisdiction where their divorce case is pending.
Ways of Obtaining Full Custody of Your Child
In divorce proceedings, decisions involving legal and physical custody of children typically depend upon the child's best interests. In other words, courts will favor the interests of a couple's child or children over the interests of the divorcing parents.
For one parent to obtain full custody of their child over another parent, the parent requesting full custody must demonstrate that they can provide for all of the child's basic needs, along with a supportive and safe home environment.
Also, when determining whether a particular living environment is in a child's best interests, courts will frequently evaluate the child's happiness, well-being, and security with a specific parent.
One primary factor that courts will look at is which parent has been the child's primary caregiver throughout the majority of their young life.
Some of the most common factors that a court of law may consider when making child custody decisions include:
- The child's need to remain in their current home due to schooling and extracurricular activities
- The physical health and mental state of the parent who is requesting full custody of the child
- Whether a parent ever abused the child in the past, either physically, emotionally, or mentally
- The child's gender and age (including the child's preference if they have reached a certain age)
- Whether one of the parents ever abused illegal drugs in the past
- The child's physical proximity to other family members, including extended family members, when residing with a particular parent
- Whether a parent uses excessive discipline when dealing with a child who misbehaves
- Whether the child has special physical or mental needs and the parent's ability to provide for those needs in a capable manner
- The relationship that the child has with each parent
- Whether the child gets along well with other children who may be residing with one of the parents
- Whether there is a history of domestic violence associated with a particular parent
Custody proceedings can be extremely draining and tedious, and they may take a significant amount of time to resolve.
Therefore, you need to retain an experienced child custody and divorce lawyer in your area who can represent you throughout all of the necessary proceedings and advocate for you and your child's best interests throughout the case.
Parents Who May be Unfit to Have Full Custody of a Child
In some instances, a family court may determine that a parent is unfit to have full custody of a child. For example, you can demonstrate that your ex-spouse is unfit to have full custody if they regularly expose your child to physical or psychological harm.
You can also illustrate this harm by proving that your spouse engaged in one or more acts of abandonment, abuse, neglect, or other harmful behavior. In some instances, a parent who subjects a child to abuse may face various criminal charges.
A parent may also be unfit to have full custody of a child if they are financially, physically, or mentally unable to provide for the child's welfare and ongoing needs. For example, one parent may not be working or may not have the ability to financially support their child.
If you are attempting to obtain or retain full custody of your child, you need to consult with an experienced divorce and custody attorney in your jurisdiction right away.
Your lawyer can review your and your child's circumstances with you and take the proper legal action to pursue full custody in your case. Additionally, your lawyer can represent you at a hearing or other legal proceeding to decide the issue of custody.
A particular visitation schedule may entitle your ex to take the children or visit with them on certain holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, weekends, and other holidays.
Also, according to the visitation schedule you arrange, your ex may have visitation rights during certain hours. A visitation schedule will also typically describe how your ex can retrieve the children and where the drop-off location will be.
In most divorce cases, child custody and visitation arrangements are far more favorable for everyone involved when the parties work together through legal counsel and can reach a satisfactory agreement.
If the parties cannot agree on custody and visitation, the court will typically need to become involved in the matter.
Regarding child custody and visitation arrangements in your case, your attorney can work with your ex's attorney in pursuit of a workable agreement that avoids prolonged litigation in the state court system.
Mediation Sessions and Litigation Involving Child Custody and Visitation
When parents cannot decide upon custody and visitation arrangements, they can pursue mediation with a qualified, neutral, third-party mediator. A mediator can help the parties facilitate and narrow their settlement discussions and develop a custody and visitation plan without the need for a civil jury trial.
Unlike trials and hearings, mediation sessions take place outside of a courtroom and are much less formal than courtroom proceedings.
If the matter resolves at mediation, the attorneys will typically draft a written custody and visitation agreement that the court will eventually review and sign. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement on custody and visitation, the court may need to resolve the matter.
Litigating a Child Custody and Visitation Case
Many attorneys try to persuade their clients to reach a workable custody and visitation agreement outside of the courtroom.
Essentially, when parties take their case to court, they are essentially saying that they are unable to resolve their differences and disputes on their own. Therefore, they are sending all of the disputed issues to the court for a resolution. However, in most situations, one or both of the parties are ultimately dissatisfied with the court's ruling. Ex-spouses usually have a better chance of resolving their cases in a workable fashion if they come to a settlement prior to trial.
In many instances, depending upon the jurisdiction where the case is pending, custody and visitation trials are bench trials. Therefore, the presiding judge makes all decisions in the case and decides which parent should receive sole custody of the child or children and which parent should receive visitation rights.
The presiding judge will also typically issue an order that sets out a custody and visitation schedule if the ex-spouses are unable to craft a workable agreement beforehand.
During a custody or visitation trial, the parties, through their attorneys, may submit various types of evidence, including evidence that may pertain to abuse or domestic violence in the household.
The finder of fact, which is typically a judge, will then review the evidence that the parties present at trial and make a final decision about the parent’s custody and visitation rights.
If you have to pursue prolonged litigation in your case, an experienced divorce and child custody attorney can handle every step of the process for you and represent you during all legal proceedings.
For example, at a trial, your attorney may call witnesses to testify in support of your case, introduce various documents as evidence, and make compelling arguments to the court on your behalf.
What if Your Ex Files a Child Custody Modification?
Sometimes, parents might have a shared custody order for some time before one of them decides they want full custody. A move or accusations about what happened when the kids were in your custody may prompt that change.
In any situation, if your ex files a petition for a custody modification with the family court seeking sole custody, immediately seek legal representation from a custody attorney.
Speak with an Experienced Family Law Attorney in Your Jurisdiction about Your Custody Matter Right Away
Divorce and child custody proceedings are very emotional affairs that you cannot handle on your own. If you want full custody of your child, or if an ex-spouse is fighting you every step of the way, you need to retain an experienced family law attorney who can assist you throughout the process and fight for all of your legal rights and interests.
Throughout the process, your attorney will be in your corner, filing the necessary motions and pursuing the case result you desire. Additionally, if you must pursue litigation in your case, your attorney can aggressively fight for your rights and represent you at all legal proceedings – including a courtroom trial – and seek the best possible result in your case.