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Sorting out Child Custody, Child Visitation, and Child Support Issues, Part 1

The Details of Divorce with Children

When a couple divorces, there are a myriad of details that need to be attended to. When children are part of the equation, that makes the situation even more complicated and emotionally charged. However, there is good news. From child custody, to visitation, to support, the courts have a set of practices in place to resolve disputes between divorcing spouses and protect the best interests of their children.

When a couple with children gets divorced, the primary legal concerns regarding their children are custody, visitation, and support. Let’s go into a little more detail on each of these elements individually.

Child custody in New Mexico - judge at his desk

Child Custody

When most people think of child custody, they think of decisions regarding where the child lives. However, there are actually two separate and distinct elements to child custody – legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the responsibility for decision making on a child’s behalf. A child’s legal custodian is responsible for deciding where the child will attend school, what religion they will be raised in, which doctor’s they’ll see, and any other matter of consequence. Theoretically, it is possible for a parent to have sole legal custody over a child without having any physical custody, although situations like this are rare.

Physical custody refers only to where the child lives. Typically, parents will share physical custody of their child or children after divorce. This is because the court begins all child custody cases with the presumption that spending time with both parents is in the best interest of the child or children. However, if there is evidence to support the conclusion that spending time with one parent is not in the best interest of the child, the court will more than likely award custody to the other parent. If the court finds that neither parent is fit to raise the children, they likely will both be stripped of custody, and the child will either be placed with another family member or will go into the state care system.

Check back soon for Sorting out Child Custody, Visitation, and Support Issues, Part 2