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Child Custody | Divorce | Family

Is Shared Custody Good for the Child?

7 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Shared custody is considered to be the most favorable solution for your child in the majority of divorce cases. But in some situations, sole custody may be a better option. Here’s how to approach a custody hearing and manage its related legal costs. 

Shared custody is generally the preferred arrangement of both courts and child psychology experts. Research has shown that having a fulfilling relationship with two parents is the best-case scenario for a child in case of a divorce. 

Shared custody lets both parents stay involved in a child’s life, participate in important decisions and offer support when needed. Moreover, shared custody takes the burden of raising a child off just one of the parents and helps distribute related responsibilities equally.

However, the final decision for what custody arrangement will be the best option in your situation depends on several factors. This is why it’s important to talk to an experienced custody attorney as soon as possible when the issue of child custody comes up in a divorce.

Talk to a child custody attorney in your area today for an in-depth consultation on your case. 

Why Is Shared Custody the Most Common Custody Arrangement?

Shared custody is the custody arrangement most favored by courts in the United States for several reasons. 

Shared custody allows both parents to be in the child’s life and helps build a natural parent-child bond. The child gets to grow up with the influence and input of both parents. In most situations, this creates a healthy and supportive environment for the child, minimizing the traumatic effects of a divorce.

When parents share custody, they also share parenting responsibilities. This makes it easier for parents to spend more time with their children while providing for them financially. It also eliminates the need for “single parenting” and gives each parent the time to arrange their professional and personal lives.

Multiple studies have confirmed the benefits of shared parenting. According to research conducted by Stockholm University, children who live with both parents after a divorce have lower stress levels compared to children who live with just one parent. Uppsala Universitet confirms that preschool children are also reported to have fewer psychological problems in joint custody than children living with just one parent. 

Is Shared Custody Always the Best Option?

In the majority of situations, shared custody is indeed the best option for both parents and children. 

However, while it is the best possible arrangement for most families, there are situations when shared custody may not be in the child’s best interests. For instance, the judge may opt for granting sole custody if it is deemed one of the parents is unsuitable to fulfill their responsibilities. This may include the following situations:

One of the parents is neglecting their parental responsibilities.

In this case, the court will most likely assume that this neglect will continue in the future. This means that the parent will be unable to provide their child with needed shelter, medical care, supervision, or protect their child’s well-being. In such a situation, sole custody would be in the best interests of the child.

One of the parents has a history of substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.).

In this case, the changes in one’s mental state that results from abusing these substances will make the parent unable to provide proper care for their child.

One of the parents suffers from a debilitating mental illness.

In this situation, the court will try to protect the child from a parent’s erratic and unstable behavior and the other parent will be awarded sole custody. 

A parent is unable to or refuses to take care of their child.

If one of the parents hasn’t exhibited a substantive parental interest in the life of their child and fails to maintain regular contact with them, the other parent can file for sole custody.

A parent is incarcerated and, thus can not provide shelter and other forms of care for their child.

If one of the parents is in prison, the other parent has the right to file for sole custody — which will be granted in the majority of cases. The other parent may preserve their visitation rights. However, there is generally no obligation to organize child visits while the parent remains in prison as it may cause harm to the child’s emotional state. 

If one of the parents plans to relocate to another state or country.

In this case, the judge is also likely to rule in favor of sole custody or sole physical custody with shared legal custody. This means that the child will reside full-time with one parent and the other parent will preserve the right to participate in the decision-making related to the child’s life. Shared physical custody may also be an option if the co-parents can work together and ensure that this arrangement is not disruptive in the child’s life. 

In short, while sole custody is generally the best arrangement, it all depends on the specific and unique circumstances of your family situation. The final decision should always be made in the best interests of the child — and this is what the court is guided by. 

Will I Need a Lawyer in a Custody Hearing?

The short answer to this question is yes. While no law would prevent you from representing yourself in a custody hearing, you would be putting yourself at a considerable disadvantage. Without a profound knowledge of how the system works, you may find it hard to see your interests clearly and understand your options. It would also be exceptionally hard to argue your case in court without professional legal help. What’s more, the stress of your changing life situation could make it hard to look at your situation objectively and make informed decisions. 

This is why it is strongly advised that you work with an experienced custody attorney.  Your lawyer will analyze your situation and advise you on the best custody arrangement for your case. They will also help you navigate the system and help your case succeed in court. Custody proceedings tend to be long and tedious — and working with a lawyer will significantly speed up the process.

How Can You Minimize Legal Expenses in a Custody Hearing?

How much you will need to pay in legal expenses depends on the specific circumstances of your case. However, you can estimate your expenses to be within the $3,000 to $5,000 range. This is because most lawyers charge a flat fee for a full set of services associated with a custody case. If your situation is particularly difficult, you should also be prepared to pay an extra $250 to $500 per hour for any additional work your lawyer may need to do.

As you can see, the legal expenses associated with a custody case can be quite expensive. But there are several things you can do to bring down related expenses.

First, if you and your spouse don’t agree on a custody arrangement, consider using a mediator to help reach a compromise. Mediation is a structured communication process guided by an impartial party to resolve conflict. The mediator may use special communication and negotiation techniques to help the disputing parties arrive at a mutually beneficial resolution. A mediator in this case doesn’t have to be a lawyer — but it’s important that your mediator is neutral and does not favor either side. If you and your partner manage to reach an agreement, this will substantially decrease your legal expense for both sides.

In the unfortunate case when an agreement can’t be reached, you are advised to seek legal help. However, instead of paying for a full set of services, you can search for a lawyer in the Unbundled Help network. When using unbundled legal services, you will have the option to hire a lawyer for just one of your case services or several specific services. For example, you may only need consultation on your case or you may only need a lawyer to attend a court hearing with you. Working with an unbundled lawyer can help you save thousands of dollars in legal fees. 

While unbundled legal services are a good way to manage legal expenses, they may not be the best solution for every case. If your custody battle is particularly complicated, you will benefit from full legal representation. You can still work with a lawyer from the Unbundled Help network if you need a full set of services. The price for full legal representation, in this case, can also be more affordable as we work with independent practitioners and smaller law firms.

We can put you in touch with an unbundled lawyer from the Unbundled Legal Help network today for a consultation on your custody situation. 

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