After a marriage is over and you have custody of your children, you will be responsible for making the important decisions about your children’s upbringing and schooling.
In the majority of cases, the other parent still has a right to spend some time with the children. Keep in mind that the law says that there should be as much contact as possible with both parents as is best for the children. However, in serious circumstances, a judge could decide that it is in the children’s best interests not to spend time with the other parent.
If you do not have custody, generally, you will have a right to spend time with your children. A parent with access usually has rights to:
– spend time with the children, such as on a weekday evening, on weekends, and holidays; and
– receive information about the children — news about their health and well-being and how they are doing at school.
As a parent with access rights, you can ask the court to order the other parent to give you advance notice—at least 30 days—if he or she intends to move the children to another home.
You can lose your access rights, or they can be limited. For instance, if you do not follow the court order or if you act in a way that is harmful to your children, the court can decide to change the access arrangements.
There is also joint custody. Sometimes a husband and wife want a divorce but want to continue to share their responsibilities as parents equally.
Joint custody means that both of you have custody of the children. In other words, you both continue to share in making all the major decisions concerning the children. If there is joint custody, many different living arrangements are possible. The children may live with each parent for about the same amount of time or live mostly with one parent.
Not many parents go to trial about custody. Proceedings can be expensive and stressful both for you and for the children. You have choices other than going to court to reach agreements on parenting arrangements.
– You can go to a family mediator. A mediator is generally a person with a legal or social work background who has special training in helping people resolve disputes. A mediator works with both of you and helps you discuss and decide on the arrangements for your children.
– You can meet with a lawyer who will explain your legal rights and obligations and help you negotiate an agreement.
– You can meet with a family therapist, child psychologist, social worker, family doctor, or another professional who knows about the effects of separation and divorce on children of different ages.
Many courts now offer parent-education sessions, which present options for settling the issues you face upon separation and divorce. These sessions also discuss the impact of separation and divorce on children.