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If you need to negotiate a child custody arrangement, a divorce lawyer may be able to help. Child custody negotiations are often the most heated part of a divorce proceeding. In addition, if you were never married, a child custody case can be undertaken alone. With divorcing couples, child custody is one part of the larger divorce agreement; with unmarried couples, child custody is a case of its own.

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by child custody negotiations. You probably have a very strong sense of what you want from the arrangement. When this ideal conflicts with your spouse’s wishes, things can get messy very quickly.

Even if you and your spouse come to an agreement about custody without needing a judge’s mandate, you’ll still need to present the arrangement in court. A judge will review the facts of the case and make a ruling. The judge’s job is to rule in the child’s best interests. In most cases, an agreed-upon custody arrangement will also be acceptable to the judge.

Divorce lawyers are an imperative part of custody negotiations. They review the facts of your case, put together evidence, and advocate for your position. They also head the negotiation process with your spouse’s attorney. Not only that, but they make sure all necessary paperwork is filed at the appropriate venues in the appropriate lengths of time. All the complicated bureaucracy involved in a custody arrangement is handled by your attorney.

There are a number of different terms and factors you should keep in mind when it comes to child custody.

Physical Custody

When a person has physical custody of a child, this means that the child is living with them. There are several different types of physical custody arrangements possible. If both parents want to participate in the child’s life, the judge will likely recommend that each have physical custody for a certain portion of time. Courts tend to favor solutions where children get to spend time with both parents.

One arrangement is shared custody. This doesn’t tend to be the first go-to option in a divorce, but it can work for couples who are on good terms. With shared custody, the parents work together as a team to raise the child.

Joint custody works very similarly to shared custody, but each parent has an individual relationship with the child, rather than sharing the responsibilities. With joint custody arrangements, the child will usually spend more time with one parent than the other. Joint custody is common when both parents live particularly close to each other.

Primary Physical Custody

The parent with primary physical custody is the parent who has the child most of the time. One common arrangement is for the child to live with one parent during the weekdays. They’ll attend school in this parent’s school district. Then they’ll spend weekends with the non-primary parent.

Another common arrangement is for the child to spend the school year with the primary custodial parent and the summer with the other parent. This arrangement is more likely if the parents live too far apart to make weekend custody work.


Sometimes a parent doesn’t want physical custody at all. Alternatively, the judge may rule that the parent isn’t fit to have physical custody. However, the parent still has rights to visit their child. Visitation can be scheduled through the court and mandated if you don’t adhere to the schedule.

Supervised Visitation

Supervised visitation is a much more restrictive type of visitation. It also involves bringing an officer of the court into the arrangement. A parent with supervised visitation privileges may visit their child at the scheduled times, but only with a trained supervisor observing.

Supervised visitation only tends to be invoked if there’s a fear that the parent will pose a danger to the child if left alone with them. If domestic violence or abuse has been an issue in the past, it’s essential that you bring this up with your lawyer. They can help you get the documentation you need to restrict your spouse’s visits.

Keep in mind that most spouses will fight supervised visitation, so you need to make sure you have adequate proof.

Modifications to Existing Agreement

Some child custody arrangements may be modified if different circumstances change. If the child wants to live with the other parent, the judge may modify the order. Similarly, the scheduling may change if one parent needs to move too far away for the current schedule to accommodate

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