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 June 10, 2020

How Are Child Custody Arrangements Made?

Parents and two daughters cooking dinner at kitchen stove

Best Interests of the Child

Child custody arrangements are usually made through a court-approved agreement, or through court orders following a hearing or trial.

Child custody arrangements or parenting plans are legal documents that are either approved or mandated by the court. They come from an agreement between the child’s parents or from a judge’s decision following a trial or custody hearing.

While laws may vary by state, when considering parenting plans, judges will keep the best interests of the child front and center. Custody arrangements may be impacted by such factors as the child’s age; custody rights; who previously provided care for the child; each parent’s physical, mental, and emotional health; the child’s relationships at school and in their community; and other factors.

Divorce and Child Custody Decisions

Parents may have an adversarial relationship during and after their divorce, which can hinder negotiations over custody arrangements. While some do eventually reach a joint custody agreement, it may follow a court-ordered mediation.

If you are going through a divorce or are already divorced and considering a change to the parenting plan, discuss your options with a family law attorney. A lawyer can help negotiate an agreement and get it approved by the court. In a divorce, child custody may be disputed and require a hearing or trial, which makes for a longer and costlier process. A lawyer can represent your interests in these matters.

Unmarried Parents and Child Custody Decisions

Unmarried parents have similar options for putting a parenting plan in place: they can reach an agreement and have the court approve it, or they can go to court and have the judge set their visitation and parenting schedule.

Establishing Paternity for Child Custody Purposes

In some cases, parents may not agree on a child’s paternity. In some instances, mothers care for children with decision-making power and do not have to share visitation. Paternity disputes may occur because:

  • Mothers may not know who the father is.
  • Fathers don’t want to pay for or care for the child.
  • Fathers aren’t aware of the child or sure it is their child.
  • Mothers want to prove the man is the child’s father.
  • Fathers want to confirm the child is his.

If paternity is disputed, DNA tests are normally used to confirm paternity. Either parent can ask the court to require a paternity test.

When wondering how to establish a child custody arrangement if you were never married, you should seek advice and assistance from a family attorney so that you know your rights and options.

Non-Parental Guardianship of a Child

Non-parental guardianship of a child is less common compared to divorced parents and unmarried parents having custody. Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles and others may seek non-parental guardianship for a number of reasons:

  • The parent is no longer able to provide adequate care and support.
  • The parent has significant physical or mental health concerns.
  • The child was a victim of abuse or neglect.
  • The parents passed away.
  • The parents abandoned the child.
  • The child has lived with the relative as a foster child for an extended period.

If you believe you should be awarded guardianship of a child or teen, remember that the laws of each state may vary and you should seek advice and assistance from an attorney.

Seeking a Lawyer for Child Custody Arrangements

If you have questions or concerns about current or future child custody arrangements, discuss the matter with a family law attorney. LegalShield has a vast network of provider law firms to serve our members in all 50 states and in Canada.

If you are already a Member, use your LegalShield app to reach your provider law firm today.

If you are not yet a LegalShield Member, we have a plan to help you face your legal challenges today and anything that may pop up in the future.

Let us connect you with a provider law firm that may help you understand your options and the necessary process if you need assistance related to child custody.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact an attorney for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.

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