As stressful as disentangling a marriage is to the parents in the throes of a divorce, it is often much more so for the child who witnesses his parents go through this process. Dickinson's family law attorneys are sensitive to clients' desires to protect the best interests of their children. Parties to the dissolution of a marriage frequently confuse the difference between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent's rights and responsibilities with regard to decisions affecting the child's legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious instruction. Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to the right and responsibility to maintain the principal home of the child and provide for the routine care of the child. If a party desires joint physical custody, the court will take into consideration the following four primary factors:
- stability and continuity for the child;
- whether the parents have the ability to communicate and show mutual respect;
- the degree of conflict present in the parents' relationship; and
- whether the parents are in general agreement about their approach to daily matters.
Dickinson attorneys work with clients in assessing the numerous issues associated with determining legal and physical custody. Occasionally, we may engage a custody expert to perform a custody evaluation that may be helpful to a judge. Our attorneys may also request that the court appoint a guardian ad litem or an independent attorney to represent your child.