Legal Guide

How to Work Out Child Custody in a Divorce Case

If a couple decides that divorce is the only way to go, a bitter battle over child custody is likely to follow. While both parents will forever be guardians to the children, only one (in most cases) will have custody rights.

The divorce decree stipulates the parent with whom the children will live (custodial parent).  This arrangement can be reached arbitrarily by the involved parents either by themselves or in the presence of legal counsel. In the event that a consensus is unreachable, the court decides which parent gets child custody.

Variations of Child Custody

There are several types of child custody. They include:

Physical custody

This is the most common form of child custody. It is typified by one parent spending the majority of the time with the children. The non-custodial parent can only interact with the kids during visitation and may be required to offer spousal support. However, both parents have an equal say over the child’s education, healthcare, and other pertinent matters.

Joint Custody

As the name suggests, the children will spend equal time with both parents under this arrangement. Joint custody is a contentious agreement, with supporters saying that children can get a chance to feel the love from both sides, whereas its critics say that a child should reside in one place.

Regardless, joint custody is rarely granted if the matter goes to court. This is because it requires utmost cooperation between parents, something that is difficult to achieve.

Split Custody

Split custody is yet another way of resolving child custody issues, albeit unpopular. Here, the children are split between the parents.

The cases mentioned above are only applicable where the parents were married. In instances where the parents are unmarried, most jurisdictions grant the child custody to the mother. The father can only get the decision if the mother is considered unfit to keep the child.

Factors Considered When Granting Child Custody

Most court decisions are based on the child’s best interest. But, what encompasses these ‘best interests?’

  • If the child is of age, they can choose their preferred parent.
  • Health conditions of the parents. This involves both physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Age and sex of the child.
  • The ability of the parent to meet the child's needs.
  • Parental conduct. Is the parent abusive (physical or emotionally)? Do they use drugs?
  • Adjustment to school and community.

The Primary Caretaker

Another factor that weighs in the court’s decision is which of the parents was the primary caretaker. This term refers to the parent with whom the child established an emotional bond. According to psychologists, this attachment must continue to avoid destabilizing the child’s thinking.

Although most primary caretakers are mothers, there is a significant number of men who meet these requirements. Where the two parents are both perceive to be equal contributors to the child’s emotional wellbeing, the decision is based on the child’s interest.


Child custody cases can be wearisome.  To ease the process, it is advisable to seek professional help, preferably from lawyers.

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