If there are children involved in your family law matter, then one of the most important factors in your case will be custody and visitation.
It is important to understand that the court will be making a determination as to who will have legal custody of the children, who will have physical custody of the children and how much time each child will spend with each parent.
Legal custody involves which parent is going to be responsible for making the decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children. Often times, both parents will share joint legal custody unless there is some significant reason that one parent should have sole legal custody.
Physical custody determines which parent is going to have the child physically with them. Like legal custody, this often can be joint physical custody. Good reasons can compel the court to grant one party sole physical custody based on the facts of the case and what the court thinks will be in the best interests of the children.
Apart from Legal and Physical custody, the court will require a visitation schedule set up between the parents. This can range from 100% of the time to one parent with no visitation to the other, to a 50/50 schedule. Several factors will be important to the court including whether there has been any history of domestic violence, substance abuse, alienation of one parent or other serious issues that will impact the children.
It is important to get solid legal advice to understand what can happen with regards to child custody and visitation at the outset of the case to avoid having your rights to custody and visitation taken away by the court. It is also critical to understand that custody and visitation can change based on what happens with the children in your case. Some people have started with 90% of the time with their children and then lose almost all of it due to unreasonable behavior.