Custody and Visitation

When parents cannot agree on who should have custody of their minor children, then the court must decide. Custody litigation is an expensive procedure and often very Emotional. Both parents should look honestly at their new living conditions, available time and other resources and consider carefully which parent can provide a better home life for their children. Because neither parent automatically has a legal right to custody, the court will consider the best interests of the children. The court may order joint or shared custody, but will seldom do so unless the parties agree to the joint or shared custody. Children who have reached an appropriate level of maturity may express their preference to the judge at the judge's discretion. The judge is required to consider the child's preference. The weight given to the child's wishes depends upon the maturity and basis of the child's opinion. However, a child's preference is not controlling. Minor children may be appointed guardians ad litem to represent them in court. Guardians ad litem conduct independent investigations and make limited recommendations for the court. Noncustodial parents can be awarded periods of specified visitation with their children. If circumstances surrounding custody and the child's best interests change substantially, the family court can then order a change of custody or visitation.