Child Custody and Visitation
If child custody and visitation are issues in your case, having the advice of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney can be beneficial. If you and the other parent are unable to come to an agreement for custody and visitation on your own, contact the Law Office of David C. Watts for a free consultation and case analysis.

Often with the help of an attorney knowledgeable in custody and visitation, the parties can resolve their differences and avoid court. If negotiation fails, the Law Office of David C. Watts has the experience to guide you through the court process.

For more information on common Custody & Visitation issues, see below.

If child custody is an issue in your case, there are two basic ways a parenting plan can be determined. The first, and best way, is for the parents to reach an agreement between themselves, often with the help of the attorneys or with a court appointed or private mediator. Agreeing to a parenting plan allows both parties to buy into the plan and focus on what is best for the children. This, however, is not always the case. If the parents cannot work out a plan on their own, the Court will have to weigh in and make the decision for the parents.

How does the Court make this decision? The basic premise behind custody cases is what is in the best interest of the children from both a physical and emotional standpoint. Ideally what is best is a plan that gives frequent and continuous contact between the children and both parents. It is not based on what is in the best interest of the parents. While this may be a factor in the overall decision, the Court is tasked with determining the best interest of the children. Factors the Court can consider are listed below. This is in no means a complete list of what the Court can consider.

  • The age of the children
  • The ability and experience of each parent in caring for the children
  • The strength of the bond between the parent and child
  • Where the children are in school, if applicable
  • History of domestic violence
  • History of substance abuse
  • Each parent’s ability to co-parent with the other
  • The child’s preference, depending on the age and maturity of the children

Types of Custody

Legal Custody

  • This refers to the ability of the parents to make decisions about the children’s health, education and welfare. The Court can order either joint legal custody or can order that one parent have sole legal custody.
  • If joint legal custody is ordered, which is most common, the parents must discuss and agree on legal custody issues such as what doctors the children see, the types of treatment they get, where they go to school or what activities they should be involved in. If they cannot agree, the parents may need to solicit help by either a mediator or, ultimately the Court.
  • If a parent is given sole legal custody, that parent alone makes these decisions.

Physical Custody

  • This refers to who the children live with (one parent or both) and the time each parent has with the children. As with legal custody, the courts can order either joint custody or sole custody to one of the parents.
  • Joint physical custody, while most common, does not necessarily mean a true 50/50 timeshare (the amount of time the children are with each parent). While the court could order a 50/50, it could also be 60/40 or 70/30 or another arrangement that the Court believes is in the best interest of the children based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
  • Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent subject to the Court’s power to order visitation to the noncustodial parent. Where warranted, the Court can order one parent’s visitation to be supervised either by someone known to the parties, or in some cases, by a professional supervisor.