When it comes to child custody agreements, there are a lot of misconceptions that people have had and shared over the years. These misconceptions interfere with many peoples’ understandings of child custody and what is legal and normal in these situations. Read on to learn about seven common misconceptions about custody agreements so that you can better understand the child custody process and receive the outcome you want.
This misconception might have begun in TV and other media because, more often than not, deliberations occur in a courtroom. While many cases end up in court because of an inability to reach an agreement over a custodial arrangement, that doesn’t mean that time spent in court is a requirement. Rather, you will only need to go to court if you both agree to go to court or if one party is unwilling to rely on alternative solutions.
One alternative solution that many couples choose is an informal negotiation. You and your partner can create an agreement and work with an attorney to ensure that it is legally sound and can stand up in a court of law. From there, they’ll draft a legal document that you will both sign. However, you must come to this agreement, and you must follow through with the promises therein. If you or the other parent cannot come to an agreement, there are other options that don’t involve the court.
When informal negotiation doesn’t work, you can try mediation or arbitration instead of going to court. In mediation, a neutral third party will facilitate a discussion between you and the other parent, working to ease the differences and concerns and, hopefully, help you reach an agreement. In this mediation process, each parent can have an attorney represent them.
An arbitration is similar but a little more formal. In this, each party has an attorney who hires experts to support their claims. Everyone brings their case and evidence to the arbitrator, who makes the final decision. Additionally, the arbitration can be binding or nonbinding. If you choose beforehand for it to be binding, the court won’t overturn it in most circumstances. If it is not binding, you and the other parent can still use your discretion to determine if the outcome is satisfactory.
When going through a divorce involving a custody question, a common outcome is that one parent holds custody while the other has visitation rights. This agreement means that while the child lives with one parent, the other parent can visit them, or the child can visit the parent. One pervasive myth is that if one parent does not pay their child support, the other parent can withhold visitation rights. It can make sense that if one parent is not playing by the rules, they’re sacrificing their rights in the arrangement—but this is not the case.
If one parent fails to pay their due and you choose to withhold visitation rights without the court’s approval, you could lose custody. When the other parent is not paying their share of child support, the answer is not to withhold visitation but instead to tell your attorney. The courts run into this issue often, and they’ll handle the consequences. Typically, they will penalize the other parent with fines and wage garnishment; if the problem persists, they could even see jail time.
Another myth that persists is that the only people who can obtain custody are parents. The courts want to keep the children in a parent’s home and ensure that a divorce or separation does not completely disrupt their life, but it’s not always possible. Instead, many situations occur where the best place for the child is with grandparents, other family members, or even family friends.
In some situations, both parents will be incarcerated or have a history of substance abuse, making them unfit to care for the child at the time. Courts can grant non-parents permanent physical and legal custody, but the parents can appeal this when they change their behavior and can prove they are fit to raise a child.
This myth dominates public perception surrounding child custody arrangements because of film and TV. Children cannot decide who they will live with and who receives custody. In some situations, judges will hear from a child to obtain their opinion, but this is just one factor the judge considers. Depending on the case, it can have more importance than other details of the case, like if a child is steadfast in their opposition to living with one parent.
Another myth perpetuated by TV and social media is that the court always favors the mother. In many cases, the court awards custody to the person who can best care for the child, and that’s often the parent who already acts as the primary caregiver.
Some households still operate with the father working and the mother staying at home. This lifestyle is part of why numbers have skewed more toward mothers, but this correlation does not prove any causation. Rather, it is more indicative of the lifestyle that is still present in many homes.
One myth that has hurt many families is that you can never get custody if you have a history of abuse, mental illness, criminality, or substance abuse. This myth has been somewhat true in the past, but more courts recognize that people can change and prove that their actions no longer represent who they are today. Courts don’t want to cut off a parent from their child entirely, and, depending on the other parent, they may be more willing to give the other parent custody. It goes on a case-by-case basis, but people do have the capacity to change and serve as great parents for their children.
Many divorced or separated couples will come to an agreement, but as things change in the following years, they’ll choose to do things a little differently. Weekend visits turn into multiple times a week, child support payments can change, and more, but that doesn’t mean these choices change the legal custody agreement. Only the court can do custody arrangement modifications, and anything against that breaches the agreement. It’s important to communicate with the other parent and figure out what works best, but you want to work with the court to ensure everyone is happy and represented.
These common misconceptions about custody agreements paint an inaccurate picture of how these proceedings go about. It can create misconceptions and accidentally push people to go through the process differently, potentially hurting themselves and their children in the process. If you’re looking for a father custody attorney in Illinois, look no further than Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP. We’re aware of these misconceptions and the best way to navigate this complicated system, and we’ll help you get through it.