How Child Custody Is Addressed During Divorce

Posted on: 17 March 2020

All divorce lawyers have watched situations unfold where the custody of children had to be addressed. This can be one of the most heart-wrenching parts of a divorce, and it means lawyers in these circumstances also have to be child custody attorneys. Let's look at how divorce attorneys approach this problem while helping their clients.

Understanding the Best Interests Standard

The world of child custody lawyers is defined largely by a single concept: the best interests of the child. Although that may sound to the average non-attorney like a really vague concept, it has a very specific legal meaning.

Any time a court is asked to assess who should have custody, the answer is driven by what the court determines are the best interests of the child. For example, which parent is most capable of dealing with the most basic needs a kid might have, such as being clothed and housed? Which parent can best assist with things like homework, hygiene, and dealing with doctor's appointments?

The best interest standard also carries with it a basic assumption. All other things being equal, both parents should have extensive contact with the child. Similarly, both parents should have reasonable input into things like where the kid goes to school, how they worship, and how they'll be raised within their culture.

Physical and Joint Custody

Having physical custody means that a particular parent is the primary care provider for the child. Note that primary physical custody and joint custody are arrangements that will usually overlap. One parent is going to have to be the one who resides wherever the child calls home in order to provide a stable environment. The other parent will usually have custody of the kid at a designated time each week or a few times each month. Joint custody simply means both parents get a say in the previously mentioned issues regarding education and upbringing.


Most judges want to see extraordinary evidence before they consider anything other than some combination of physical and joint custody as previously described. If there are concerns that one parent is abusive or has serious substance use problems, those might be grounds for awarding sole custody to the other parent.

Even under such circumstances, though, visitation will likely be an option. Under the worst circumstances, such as with a parent who has a documented history of abuse, court-supervised visitation may be ordered to assure safety.

To learn more, contact a child custody lawyer.