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How much do you really know about child custody?

Once it becomes apparent that a divorce is unavoidable, two things almost always happen to the spouses involved. First, they will understandably experience a host of emotions, including anger, anxiety, sadness and perhaps even relief. Second, once these emotions subside, they will inevitably have a host of questions concerning everything from property division and spousal support to child support and, perhaps most important of all, child custody.

Regarding this latter point, the spouses have questions about how custody will be determined, meaning how much time they will get to spend with their child, and how much of a say they will have in important matters relating to their child's health and upbringing.

While there is, of course, no definitive way to answer such inquiries given that every situation is so different, couples should understand that there are two types of custody that will be awarded by the courts in a divorce: physical custody and legal custody.  

Physical custody

As you might imagine, physical custody essentially refers to where and with whom a child will reside.

In joint physical custody arrangements, a child will have two primary residences, such that he or she moves between them for specified periods, effectively splitting time with the parents equally. By way of example, consider a scenario in which a child alternates weeks living with each parent.

In sole physical custody arrangements, the child will have a primary residence, meaning they essentially live with one parent the majority of the time, and spend smaller blocks of time with the other parent, who is awarded visitation rights. By way of example, consider a child who lives with his or her mother, and sees their father primarily on the weekends and/or holidays.

While some states have what is known as a joint custody presumption, meaning the courts start with notion that it's in the best interests of the child to split time 50-50 with their parents, Nebraska is not one of these states. Indeed, the reality is that while courts will award joint custody when couples can agree to such an arrangement, sole physical custody arrangements are more often the norm.

We'll continue this discussion in our next post, examining the concept of legal custody.

In the meantime, if you are a father who would like to learn more about your rights and your options relating to custody, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.         

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