Children are the most important consideration in any family court case in which they are involved. Child Custody and visitation can be very difficult issues to resolve and often, children are put in the middle of their parents' dispute. If custody and visitation are contested, it becomes necessary to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of the children, who may recommend child counselors, psychologists, co-parenting counseling or family counseling to help the children and family navigate the emotional difficulties of separation and divorce.
The family court has the ability to award joint custody, or full custody to one parent, with many factors to be considered, such as, but not limited to, who has been the primary caretaker of the child, where the child will live with each parent, the temperament and developmental needs of each child, current and past interaction with siblings, grandparents and other individuals who have impacted the child's life, whether either parent has manipulated or coerced the child or disparaged the other parent, whether a parent has involved the child in the custody dispute, whether the parents have been actively involved in the life of the child, whether there has been any abuse or neglect, or substance abuse, mental or medical health issues which may affect the parent's ability to care for the child. When engaged in a child custody dispute, a parent can feel like they are under a microscope, with every aspect of their lives being examined, discussed and put on display. A parent can feel violated and helpless when faced with losing custody or time with their child. We at Barrett Mackenzie are prepared to advise you regarding every aspect of your custody dispute and we will work together as a team to try to get the best outcome possible for you and your child.
Whether one parent is awarded full custody or the parents are awarded joint custody, the court must determine an appropriate physical placement schedule, how the parents will communicate with each other and how major decisions will be made for the minor children. The standard for every child custody dispute is what is in the best interests of the children. Since 1996, our family courts have had the ability to award joint custody, but have rarely done so absent agreement of the parties. In 2012, our state legislature passed a new comprehensive custody statute outlining the factors to be reviewed when making a determination as to custody. Although our state legislature appears to be trying to move more squarely towards joint custody as a default position, our court system still disfavors joint custody, making it more difficult, but not impossible, to achieve.
To award joint custody above one, or both, parent's objections, the family court is required to find exceptional circumstances exist. This can encompass many different things. The case of Clark v. Clark is situation in which the court awarded the parties shared, joint custody over the Mother's objections due to exceptional circumstances.
Fighting for time with, and access to, your child can be heart wrenching. At Barrett Mackenzie, we are here to help you protect the best interests of your child.