Children Come First ... Continued

2. PHYSICAL CUSTODY - means actually having the child with you. Each parent has physical custody of the child when the child is with that parent.
A. PRIMARY PHYSICAL CUSTODY - The parent with whom the child resides is said to have primary physical custody.
B. PARTIAL PHYSICAL CUSTODY AND/OR VISITATION - This term refers to the parent with whom the child does not reside.
C. SHARED PHYSICAL CUSTODY - When the children spend an equal amount of time with each parent, the parents have been awarded shared physical custody. Where neither parent's fitness is in question, the schedules of parents and children, and the geographical distance between the parents' residences, often determines the division of time between parents.

The law provides that custody and visitation of minor children are to be determined according to the best interests of the child. In deciding custody cases, courts always look at what the judge finds to be in the child's best interest. In order to win a contested custody case, a parent must convince the court that that parent can best provide for the child. Assuming that neither parent poses any serious danger to the child, courts take the approach that it is in the child's best interest to have a significant amount of quality time with both parents. For that reason (while courts will sometimes place strict conditions on visits) courts rarely refuse to give a parent any visitation. No custody decision is ever so final that it cannot be changed when the best interests of the child warrant a change. The law presumes, however, that a happy and well adjusted child should not be disrupted without very good reason; and for that reason, it is much harder to change an existing custody order, than it is to win a case the first time around. When a child reaches the age of 14, courts will usually listen to the child's preference with regard to custody and visitation. For children under age 14, courts will frequently hear what the child has to say, but, the court is not bound by the child's preference.
Attorney Pealer will be glad to answer your more specific questions about a custody case. Please feel free to telephone her office at (570) 784-1460 to make an appointment.

Deanna R. Pealer