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Understanding child custody is an important part of divorce

When parents in Louisiana divorce, one of the most important aspects of their split involves who will have custody of their child. There are two types of child custody. Knowing the difference is important for planning for a family's future.

The parent with legal custody has the right and responsibility to make decisions on their child's health, education, welfare and other important matters. A parent with physical custody lives with their child.

These two general categories have different alternatives. A parent with sole custody has exclusive physical and legal custody. In this situation, the non-custodial parent has limited visitation rights with the children.

Under joint custody arrangements, both parents may make important decisions. However, the child may not actually spend time equally with both parents. One parent may spend more time with the child and makes most of the important decisions. On the other hand, some parents may agree that the child should spend time equally with them and that they both can make important decisions regarding the child.

There are various other child custody plans. Under an alternating plan, children may spend a week with one parent and then another week with the other parent. A 2-2-5-5-schedule gives a parent custody every Monday and Tuesday when the other parent has every Wednesday and Thursday. Custody is alternated Friday through Sunday.

A bird's nest plan is a form of joint custody where the child stays in their house while the parents move in and out. This provides consistency for the children. However, it is expensive because parents must keep another residence when they are not living in the child's house. Parents must cooperate and set rules such as not having dates stay overnight.

In a serial custody plan, a parent has primary or physical for a specified number of years. Afterwards, the other parent obtains custody. In most situations, however, this is not recommended because children should have ongoing relationships with both parents at the same time.

With split custody, one child lives with a parent and the other child lives with the other parent. Separating siblings may be harmful during this difficult time. Both parents should be allotted time with the children they are not living with under this arrangement.

Attorneys can help parents seek a child custody agreement that serves the child's best interest. Lawyers can help their clients in negotiations and in court.

Source: Good Men Project, "Child custody 101," Armin Brott, Jan. 30, 2018

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