Questions about child custody

Frequently asked questions about child custody

There are several options when it comes to child custody after a divorce. It is important to find a solution that is the best for your child, not what is convenient for you.

Getting custody of your child

To obtain custody of your child, you need to approach either the Children’s Court of the High Court and the court will decide what is in the child’s best interests.

Joint or shared custody

Parents who don’t live together can have joint or shared custody, which means they share the decision-making responsibilities for their child. Joint custody may be:

  • joint legal custody (making decisions together)
  • joint physical custody (where the child spends a significant amount of time with each parent)
  • joint legal and physical custody

In joint custody, parents work out a schedule according to their work commitments, housing arrangements and the child’s needs. A common schedule is for children to split weeks between each parent’s home. The court will impose a schedule if the parents can’t agree on one. Other joint physical custody arrangements could be spending alternating months or extended periods with each parent. This is usually the preferred choice when parents stay in different provinces.

Another accommodation option in joint custody is bird’s nest custody. In such an arrangement, the child stays in the same home and the parents take turns to live in that house. This generally causes less disruption for the child but isn’t always viable for the parents, even if the divorce was amicable.

The benefit of joint custody is that the child continues to have contact and be involved with both parents. However, children need to be shuttled between homes and this can affect their sense of belonging.

You need to keep detail financial records of your expenses in the case of a joint custody arrangement. Keep records of groceries, clothing, school and after-school activities and medical care. This can count in your favour if your ex-partner claims to have spent more money on your child than you have and takes you to court.

If one parent earns more than the other, the higher-earning parent may need to pay more towards expenses relating to the child, for example, school fees and medical care.

Full custody vs sole custody

Full custody means you have equal custody rights to the other parent. Sole custody means you are the only parent who has custody rights.

If you have sole legal custody, you alone are responsible for the day-to-day decisions for your child. You will also be entitled to child support.

Caregivers and custodians

Both parents can be custodial parents. However, the primary custodial parent is the one who makes the day-to-day decisions about the child’s life, for example, which school the child attends.

A caregiver is a parent or who cares for the child, but can also be someone else. A grandmother that cares for a child, providing food, clothing and a place to stay, is considered a caregiver. Their primary responsibility is to ensure the child has everything they need and have their best interest at heart.

Fathers’ rights

Fathers have the right to be part of their child’s life. If a dad can prove that it would be in his child’s best interest he can apply to the court to obtain full custody. The same processes apply if the father wants to file for visitation rights. The mother will usually be given primary custodial rights if the parents of the child are unmarried, but the father can petition to have shared custody. It is important to remember that the court will always make the decision that considers what is best for the child.

The advice you need

If you need more information about custody options, get in touch with Dreyer Engelbrecht Attorneys INC.