You may think that you won’t have to make any decisions about child custody until after you are divorced, but family lawyers will advise you that it will need to be settled before a divorce is given by the judge.
While divorces these days are not difficult to get with a ‘no-fault’ law in place, a judge will want to know who and how the children are being looked after before they agree to make your marriage end legally. For instance, they want to know that the person who is going to take the children and care for them is able to do so, both financially, emotionally and physically.
The welfare of the children is of prime important in a family law court, no matter how old they are. While they are still legally minors, they must be cared for by a person deemed suitable by the courts. If the parents are not suitable – for instance if one is in gaol and the other is a drug addict, then grandparents or other family members may be considered, if they are agreeable.
If there is no one to look after them, they will need to go into the foster care system and may be made wards of the state. However, the courts prefer them to stay with family if at all possible.
Once you separate from your ex, it is important to provide a good home for the children and ensure they attend school each day. It is best if they can keep going to the school they are familiar with, although this is not always possible if you have to move from the district to get accommodation and/or a job. However, doing so will help them adjust to their new life without one of their parents. At least they’ll have the same friends, which will help them to have a stable life emotionally.
If you do have to move, it’s essential to make the change as painless as possible for the children. Discussing child custody with your ex is important. Working out who will care for the children after school hours if you work is another important matter. These things must be worked out before the divorce, not afterwards.
It is wise to consult with your family lawyer so that you can get legal advice and know what to do for the best. Going through a divorce when there are children is much more difficult than taking those steps without children. The court will want to know every detail about the child care that will be provided and things like visitation rights, child support and custody must be decided on between you and your ex because they are all part of the divorce proceedings.