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What type of custody arrangement will best suit your children?

Like other Kansas residents, you may still be in shock that your spouse told you that he or she wants a divorce. You may be confused, hurt and angry. In those first days, and perhaps weeks, after hearing this news, you may want to lash out, which is perfectly normal.

You may think that one way to get back at him or her would be to restrict the amount of time that your soon-to-be former spouse gets to spend with the children. The problem is that you are not only punishing the other parent but your children as well. Under normal circumstances, most people would admit that the children love the other parent, and he or she is a good parent. Approaching custody from the perspective of the children's needs often results in happier and better-adjusted kids in the future.

Let's talk about legal custody first

The first aspect of custody is legal custody. During marriage, you probably took for granted the fact that you and the other parent made major decisions affecting the lives of their children. You made decisions regarding their schooling, their religious upbringing and medical decisions. In a divorce, the right to make these decisions is not necessarily automatic. 

In reality, most courts will award joint legal custody to parents. This means that you and the other parent must consult together when making these types of decisions for the children. In some cases, however, the circumstances lead the court to award sole legal custody to one parent or the other. This often happens in cases of abuse, incarceration or when the other parent is otherwise not considered fit to make decisions for the children.

Now, let's talk about physical custody

More than likely, you and the other parent share legal custody. Now, you need to figure out the best arrangement for physical custody. As the name implies, this type of custody affects where the children live.

These days, most couples decide to pursue a joint custody arrangement in which each parent shares parenting time as close to equal as possible. The children spend certain days at the home of one parent and then other days at the home of the other parent. This arrangement works best when the parents live close to each other and can work together for the good of the children.

Another form of joint custody that seems to be gaining momentum is bird nesting. In this arrangement, the children remain in one home and the parents rotate in and out of it. Proponents of this form of custody say that it allows the children the security and stability of being in one home. They don't have to worry about forgetting something at one parent's house, they don't have issues with school, and they remain close to their friends.

Some parents still opt for a sole custody arrangement in which one parent is the primary caretaker and the other (usually) has liberal visitation rights. This may be the best arrangement if one parent does not live close or has work and personal schedules that do not make joint custody feasible.

Which custody arrangement should you choose?

Only you and the other parent can truly answer this question. You may benefit from sitting down, discussing the matter and negotiating an agreement that best suits your children and works for you as well. Getting to that point often requires answers to numerous questions and concerns. You can get those answers along with the guidance and assistance you need by reaching out to an experienced legal advocate.

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