After going through a divorce and it’s finalized, the next thing you’ve to deal with is child custody and visitation. Thus, when you’re beginning your child custody case, you must know what questions to ask a child custody lawyer.
Knowing what questions to ask ahead of time can help you be prepared and know what to expect during your child custody battle. Here at Greenville Family Attorneys, we take child custody matters and visitation issues seriously. We know this is an emotional and challenging moment for any family, so we prioritize the children’s emotional health in every child custody case.
Our experienced family lawyers offer innovative solutions that can help you and your children build something new, and that’s beneficial for your current family situation. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our Greenville County law office today at (864) 475-9393, or chat with us online to learn how we can help.
Here are some questions to ask your child custody attorney:
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How Do I File for Child Custody and Child Support?
To file for child custody, first, you must file a legal document asking the family law court to determine custody and appoint you as the parent with primary custody of the child. The name of this legal document you must file depends on your local jurisdiction.
Further, the correct legal pleading that you must file depends on the circumstances of your child custody case. Here’s a list of initial court documents that may start a lawsuit for child custody and child support:
- Divorce. If you’re married to the person and you’re seeking to be granted primary custody of the kid you had while married to that person, first, you must file a Divorce Petition. In the divorce petition, you’ll need to include a request for child custody and child support. Most states require that all child support and child custody matters be handled concurrently with the divorce;
- Lawsuit affecting legal separation or parent-child relationship. If you aren’t married to the person with whom you had children with, then you’ll need to file a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship or Legal Separation from that person to file for child custody and child support;
- Paternity action: If you’re the biological father of the child, but you don’t appear on the birth certificate or you’re the father of a child born during a marriage, that isn’t your marriage. First, you’ll need to determine you’re the legal father of the child. To do so, you must file a Paternity action before filing for child support and legal custody; and/or
- Child custody order modification: If there was a previous Court order concerning the kids and now you’re seeking to change the child support or child custody order, you must file for a modification of the previous court order. Typically, the filing party must prove that there has been a substantial change since the last order, and so the previous order is no longer appropriate.
Thus, what you need to file depends on the facts of your child custody case, and your local jurisdictional laws.
What are the Deciding Factors in Child Custody?
If you file for child custody in Greenville, South Carolina, you’re asking the family law court to determine where your child will live and which parent gets to voice an opinion on essential matters over your children. South Carolina family law court takes all custody cases seriously. And the South Carolina family laws require family court judges to evaluate the following when determining a parenting agreement:
- The child’s wishes, especially if he or she is old enough and mature enough;
- Each Party’s wishes;
- The child’s relationship with his or her siblings and each parent;
- How the child adjusts to the community, home, and school;
- The child’s and parent’s physical and mental state. However, if a parent is disabled, this doesn’t mean the court will deny or restrict parenting time;
- The ability of each parent ability to encourage affection, love, and contact between the other parent and the child;
- Whether each party’s past involvement with the child shows time commitment, values, and mutual support;
- The physical proximity of the party’s homes to each other, and
- Each party’s ability to place the child’s needs ahead of their own.
What is the Most Common Child Custody Arrangement?
There are many types of child custody arrangements that a family court judge may grant you. Types of custody arrangements include:
- Legal custody or decision-making: This allows a parent to make major decisions about the child. This might include decisions concerning the child’s medical care, education, and religious instruction. Often, legal custody is awarded to both parties and in that case, it’s called joint legal custody.
- Physical custody or parenting time: This custody arrangement is granted to the parent (s) with whom the child will live. Often, physical custody is shared between the parties.
- Joint custody: This is custody arrangement is where both parents share custody of the child.
- Sole custody: In this custody arrangement, only one parent has custody of the child. This may mean that the other parent can’t make important decisions regarding the child’s life or won’t have overnight parenting time with the child.
How Can I Get Full Custody of My Child?
First, it’s essential to consider whether it’s possible to work with your child’s other parent to avoid child custody disputes. Also, it’s essential to always remember that the child’s best interests need to come first.
Thus, if the other parent is loving and involved with the child, then it’s unlikely that a judge will deny them custody rights to their child. If this isn’t possible, then you may need to take legal action, including:
- Filing a lawsuit with the family law court for a child custody order if the other parent is violating a previous custody agreement, or if he or she is abusive towards the child;
- If some amount of cooperation is possible, it’s essential to initiate or seek family mediation;
- Reach an out of court parenting agreement with the other parent; and
- Understand that legal and physical custody are different, and understand how those differences may affect your ability to get full custody.
Further, if you’re trying to get full custody of your child, then you should avoid:
- Intimidating, harassing, or threatening the other parent;
- Seeking full custody simply to gain control or advantage over the other parent;
- Communicating with the other parent if they have hired a family law attorney already and you don’t because you should keep communication between your respective family law attorneys; and
- Missing any court hearings, child custody proceedings, or meetings concerning child custody that require your presence.
Don’t repeatedly call, or show up at the other parent’s home. Don’t threaten to withhold alimony or child support payment, even if the other parent is “not playing fair.” It’s essential to follow the court order and do exactly as it states. In the end, the judge will view your willingness to adhere to it, even when the other parent is violating the court order, shows that you’re responsible and willing to work with the legal system. Further, if you’re going through a child custody dispute, it’s essential to hire an experienced child custody lawyer to help you with child custody negotiations.
What Should Be Included in a Child Custody Agreement?
A child custody agreement is a document that defines the child custody guidelines. Often, it’s issued alongside a legal separation or divorce decree. Child custody agreements define:
- Which party has been awarded primary custody rights
- Whether child custody will be split evenly between the parties
- Which parent has been awarded legal custody rights–typically the same party that has been granted physical custody rights
- Child support provisions.
- Visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent, and
- Whether any other party can assume custody, including grandparents
What are Reasons to Modify Child Custody?
If parties have an existing child custody or child support judgment, unless both parties agree to change the terms of the existing arrangement, one party must prove to the family law court that there has been a “substantial change of circumstances” which justifies modifying an existing and valid judgment. This standard has been set because family law courts favor continuity and stability of valid judgments and agreements.
If there were no rules on modification of custody or support judgments, family courts would be flooded with people wanting to change the terms of their agreements without there a need for the change. Thus, the requesting party must prove there’s a substantial change of circumstances, which is justified.
Common “substantial changes in circumstances” include a sudden change in either party’s finances, a loss or gain of employment, a death, a relocation of the parties or children, or a change in the child’s wishes. These are a few examples of common reasons that warrant a modification of a child custody or support judgment. However, this list isn’t exhaustive, and determining whether a change to a child custody judgment should be granted is a question of fact that depends on the facts of each child custody case. Modifying an existing child custody or child support judgment is complex and time-consuming.
However, because child custody modification is of vast importance, you must hire an experienced family law lawyer to guide you through these complex family law issues. For more information on child custody and child support, please call our Greenville County law office at (864) 475-9393 4848 to set up a free initial consultation.
Contact Our Experienced Greenville Child Custody Lawyers Today for Legal Advice!
If you have more questions concerning child custody, contact us today. At Greenville Family Attorneys, our experienced child custody attorneys have decades of legal experience and can help you and your children find a favorable solution. Whether you need help with the divorce process or just with child custody proceedings, we can help. Our Greenville County family law attorneys are dedicated to helping families going through the difficult emotional process of divorce. For a free case review, call our Greenville family law firm today at (864) 475-9393, or chat with us online to learn how we can help.