What is child custody and how is it determined?

A divorce procedure is about the couple parting form each other but not from their children. Both parent stay legal guardians of their children and are responsible for bringing them up. This being said, there is still a need to determine where the children will spend most of their time and in accordance, the relevant parent will make most of the decisions regarding their day-to-day routine.  Child custody is a legal term referring to the regulation of one parent being custodial or both parents sharing joint custody. Below you can learn in brief how this is determined.

Child custody – what does it mean?

In any case of divorce that includes common children there is need for a decision, by the couple or by a ruling of the court, to determine which parent will be the custodial one. That parent will spend most of the time with the children and he/she will be the one who will face most of the day-to-day decisions when bringing them up. Being a custodial parent means that there are naturally more expenses, due to the fact that the children spend most of their time with this parent. There are different kinds of child custody:

  • The mother being custodial parent – this is the most common case of child custody where the court will prefer the mother to have custody. This coincides with the Jewish law too.
  • The father being custodial parent – if the mother waives her right, willingly, or in cases where she is not able to tack care of the children.
  • Joint custody – this is relatively a “new” kind of custody. It is determined according to a divorce agreement that needs to be authorized by the court or Rabbinic court. It states that the children will spend equal time with each of the parents during the week. Needless to say that the parents need to live close to each other for this arrangement to work in a good way.

It is important to note that the custodial parent does not determine when the non-custodial parent will see the children. They are both required to fulfill the agreement regarding visitation rights. This should be kept as strictly as possible for the benefit of the children and their emotional development.

Who decides about custody?

As mentioned, in most cases the children’s custody is given to the mother. However, if both parents agree, a joint custody agreement can be authorized by the judge. In some cases the father might ask to get sole custody, this is if the mother has waived her right in a divorce agreement or if she is unable to perform her duty. In such a case the court will instruct a visit form a social worker to determine if indeed the mother is capable or not. Child custody will influence the height of the alimony and who will pay it. It is true that in all cases of custody the father is required to pay child alimony but, there are exceptions and one should consult with a skilled lawyer to examine each case individually.