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Important tips to consider when going through a child custody dispute

First, it is important to know your options in a custody case. The parents of shared children have the ability to negotiate and compromise to determine the best physical custody arrangement for their children. If the parents reach an agreement regarding child custody, a qualified family law attorney can draft a parenting agreement outlining the details of the child custody arrangement. If an agreement cannot be reached between the parties, then one of the parents must file a child custody action in the county where the children reside. 

Distinguishing between legal and physical custody

Legal custody of a child is the ability of a parent or another person to make important decisions for the child. Legal custody of a child does not include the ability to make minor day-to-day decisions for the child but rather the ability of a parent or the parents jointly to make important and major life decisions for the child. Legal custody may be held solely by one parent or jointly between the two parents. Often the court will allocate legal custody jointly between the two parents, provided that it is in the best interests of the child.

The parent or individual with physical custody of a child is the person that is giving the day to day physical care of the child. Physical custody may also be held solely by one parent or shared jointly between the two parents. Joint physical custody is defined as the parents sharing approximately the same amount of time with the child.

Once a parent files a custody action, a court or judge will determine what custody schedule is in the best interests of the minor children taking into consideration a multitude of factors that contribute to your child’s well-being, such as their physical and emotional needs, stability, continuity of relationships, schooling and overall safety.  

It is also important to understand the legal system, the local courts, rules and the laws on child custody to navigate through the judicial system. This can be daunting for many going through a divorce and this is where a qualified family law attorney can be extremely beneficial. Most jurisdictions mandate court-ordered mediation for actions involving child custody. This process is typically conducted by a certified court mediator. This process can be very helpful and productive in facilitating an agreement between the parents on the best co-parenting arrangement for their children. Understanding these processes will help parents navigate the process more effectively.

Additional things to consider when going through mediation and the court process is to gather information and evidence to show your active involvement and participation in your children’s lives such as school involvement, extracurricular activity involvement, family time and traditions, healthcare and doctor’s appointment participation and providing emotional support.

It is important that parents do not put children in the middle of the divorce process nor involve them directly in the inner workings of the divorce and custody disagreements. This can be detrimental to children and can be one of the factors a judge considers when placing custody of the children with either parent.


Judges want to see parents being active “co-parents” as much as possible and strive to put the best interests of the children first. Parents should try to maintain a positive and healthy environment for the children, as this will be a big determining factor in a judge’s custody decision. Parents should be prepared to demonstrate their willingness and ability to cooperate with the other parent in making decisions about the children’s upbringing. Co-parenting is also the ability to show that parents can effectively communicate, collaborate and resolve conflicts in a respectful manner for the well-being of the children.

An experienced family law attorney is highly recommended to help guide parents through the legal process, help them understand their rights, and provide strategic advice tailored to each parent’s specific circumstances. The family law team at Stott, Hollowell, Windham and Stancil can help assist you through this difficult process.

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Stott, Hollowell, Windham & Stancil, PLLC

Stott, Hollowell, Windham & Stancil, PLLC offers legal knowledge and experience spanning over 40 years to provide quality legal services to the greater Gaston and Charlotte regions.

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