Child custody proceedings outside the context of a divorce usually occur in one of two settings: 1) disputes by unmarried couples; and 2) post-judgment disputes by already divorced people. Of course, they also happen in the early stages of a divorce, which generally results in temporary orders.
The typical custody case involves legal custody, parenting timeshare and related issues, child-related issues such as school choice and extracurriculars, and parental conduct orders.
Legal custody is defined as the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of a child. The typical order is for joint legal custody; however, courts have wide discretion in ordering sole legal custody in some situations. Common issues that courts take into consideration are sexual or physical abuse or a history of violence in the relationship.
Timeshare is a schedule where two parents who live apart share time with their child or children. The court have wide latitude in fashioning order that fits with the child’s age, development, and various other factors, including, for example. the distance between the parents.
Child-related issues include school choice, extracurriculars such as athletic, recreational, and educational activities, as well as summer camps and vacations with either parent.
Parental conduct orders include drug and alcohol use restrictions, therapy orders, move-away and removal prevention, and a variety of other issues which are often specific to a given case.
The court system requires parents to attend mediation, which is offered by the court at no cost, prior to receiving court orders on their requests. Some counties will issue a mediator’s report to the judge even if the parties fail to come to an agreement, and some counties will only report an agreement by the parties.