For couples wanting to end their association, if not their marriage, legal separation and infant child custody are two matters that need to be dealt with. Provisions for infant child custody will be part of a separation agreement. In legal terms, "infant" refers to a child under the age of majority.
Recent Developments in Legal Separation and Infant Child Custody
The Court is now rethinking traditional assumptions about infant child custody.
Child Support Tied to Time Spent with Child
When the Court determines how much the noncustodial parent will be paying in child support, this amount is set based on how much time each parent spends with the child. This idea was adopted to encourage noncustodial parents to spend more time with their children. Unfortunately, more noncustodial parents have been requesting that the Court give them joint custody of the children as a way to pay lower child support payments, then not spending the appropriate amount of time with their children.
Both Parents are Considered Equally Capable of Raising Their Children
The Court will no longer assume that young children should be raised by their mothers. This means that no allowance is given for the fact that a child grows inside his or her mother's body and that babies can be breast-fed by their mother. A judge can order that a new mother be separated from her baby, while the father acts as the primary caregiver. The judge may also decide that both parents should spend an equal amount of time with the child.
Each Parent is Given Equal Time with the Child
In theory, having children spend time with both parents is a good idea. Children do benefit from having a loving relationship with their parents. When parents don't see their children as scheduled or agree to joint custody in an effort to make lower child support payments, the children are the ones who are negatively affected.
Custody is Given to the Parent Who Appears to be Less Angry
The Courts are more likely to give custody to the parent who appears to be more reasonable about giving the other one access to the children. The fact that one parent has traditionally been the main caregiver of the children is being given less weight. The idea of what is in the best interests of the child has changed over time, and now it includes having both parents actively working together and involved in the child's life.
When a marriage breaks down and a decision is made about custody of the children, the Court should consider whether one parent has historically been the primary caregiver and which parent the children have a closer relationship with. Judges who base their decisions mainly on this one factor may not truly be deciding what is in the best interests of the child in question, however.
Teenagers Will Have a Say in Which Parent They Live With
By the time children reach the age of 13 or 14, the Court will listen to their wishes in determining which parent they will live with. The exception to this policy is where the young person tells the judge he doesn't want anything to do with the other parent. At that point, the judge will ask whether the child has been unduly influenced by one parent to choose him or her.
In the absence of allegations that one parent has been attempting to alienate the teen from the other parent, most of the time the judge will allow the young person to live with the parent he chooses. This is due to concerns the teen may simply run away from home if he is forced to live elsewhere.
Working Together to Find a Solution
Legal separation and infant child custody are two related issues. It may be easier for a couple to come to some type of agreement about how they will continue to parent their children than to have this important issue decided by a judge.