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What divorcing parents should know about child custody

Amid all the emotion and paperwork and belongings to sort through, there is one very pressing concern about your divorce: your children. It is hard enough to explain to your kids that you and your spouse are separating, but you also face the reality that you may not see the children quite as frequently as you do now. However, it is very rare for a parent to be completely denied the right to see their children.

How is child custody determined though? There are many factors that go into the decision.

Before you even arrive at court for the first time, it can be beneficial to create a parenting plan. You and your divorcing spouse may have trouble getting along but it can be important to talk about how you will both continue to parent after the divorce. A parenting plan should include:

· Schedule of when kids will see each parent

· Schedule of where kids' holidays will be spent

· Plan for when and where to drop kids off for visits or exchanges

· Plan for how kids can stay in touch with the parent they are not visiting

· Any other details that are important to you

If you can both agree on all these points and your decisions are in the best interests of your child, the judge may approve your agreement. However, it is common for divorcing couples to disagree on at least some of the points regarding children. Usually a judge will make the final decision about custody.

Custody decisions are based on factors such as:

· Your health

· Stability of home environment

· Location relative to child's school

· Religion/culture

· Proximity to extended family

· Past history of substance abuse

· Past history of domestic violence/child abuse

Children have some say in where they will live too. A judge will consider a child's wishes as long as the child is old enough to have some awareness of their own well-being. At age 14, your child is allowed to choose with which parent they will live.

Unless there are extreme circumstances, such as abuse, both parents are usually allowed to see their children. It is common for one parent to have sole custody while the other has visitation rights, because shifting between homes constantly can be damaging to children's emotional and mental health. Custody arrangements will vary based on your case though.

Before proceeding further with your divorce, consider what is best for your children. An experienced family law attorney can give advice during this difficult time and help you achieve the best child custody arrangement for your situation.

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