What is custody?
Custody is the physical care and supervision of a child (under 18 years of age). When you get a custody order from a court, it will address these two types of custody:
Physical custody describes who the child lives with on a day-to-day basis.
Legal custody describes who has the right and responsibility for major decisions concerning the child. Some of those decisions include:
- where the child goes to school,
- what kind of healthcare the child receives, and
- what religious training the child attends.
What are some pros and cons of filing for custody?
There are many reasons people choose not to get a custody order from a court. Some people decide not to get a custody order because they don’t want to get the courts involved. Some parents make an informal agreement that works well for them. Some parents may think going to court will provoke the other parent, or they are worried that the other parent might get custody or visitation.
However, getting a custody order from a court can give you certain legal rights. Getting a custody order can give you:
- The right to make decisions about your child
- The right to physical custody of your child (to have your child live with you)
Without a custody order, it is possible that you may not have these legal rights, even if you’re the parent that takes care of the child every day. If you are married and there is no custody order, both parents have equal custody rights until a court order awards custody to one of the parents. If the parents have never been married and there is no custody order, the mother of the child has legal custody by law.
Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?
If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).
However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.
In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time – and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.
In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to AR Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.