Table of Contents:
- Custody Laws for a 16-Year-Old in Florida
- Child Custody Laws for North Carolina
- Indiana Laws on Child Custody
- Delaware Custody Laws
- About Custody Laws in Texas
- Laws for the Custody of Children in Tennessee
- Custody Laws of Virginia
- Alabama Custody Laws
- Child Custody Laws in Kentucky
- Custody Laws in Washington
Limitations to Custody
Under Title VI, Chapter 61 in Florida custody law, a child means anyone under the age of 18. While a teenager, a person who is 16 years of age must follow court orders and proceedings. A child is not considered legally competent to make decisions; such as which parent to live with. In Florida, children are not normally a part of custody suits, though a judge may order a child to appear to ascertain his safety under Title VI, Chapter 61, 523. For one, children do not always understand the gravity of the situation, and more importantly, the law wants to protect children from making a choice of one parent over the other.
The court ultimately presides and chooses the best parent for a 16-year-old to live with. The judge takes in all of the evidence and testimony. Parents of the child must have a history and live within the home state of Florida, when filing for child custody. Evidence must be given that shows the child's care, education, protection and safety while in the parent's custody. While you may appeal this decision, the court's decision is final and binding, which means that if you disobey visitation rights or choose to abandon the child, you may be held accountable.
Evidence for Child Custody
The first part of the evidence must show where the child lives and has lived during the last five years. The names and addresses of all previous living situations must be submitted to the court. Any past proceedings and determinations of child custody must also be presented with case numbers. In addition, if any past proceedings would affect the judge's decision concerning domestic violence, termination of parental rights, protective orders and adoptions, then the case numbers must also be submitted to the court. Other persons with visitation rights, or who currently look after the child, must also submit information to the court, such as a grandparent, uncle or friend of the family.
In Florida, teenagers legally emancipate at the age of 18; when they are no longer considered children. However, a 16-year-old may ask for emancipation, or the removal of disabilities of nonage under Florida Statute 743. You must be 16 years of age to obtain a court order for emancipation. A minor who receives this order gains all the rights and responsibilities of an adult. A child wishing for emancipation must petition with a civil cover sheet, summons for parents or other witness, petition for emancipation, notice for permanent mailing address and a statement of responsibility. Once emancipated, the child has free-reign over all of his affairs and is no longer under the custody of his parents, but the child must show a specific plan that shows how he supports himself. Evidence must also be given that the minor is not dependent on benefits, which are removed at the time of emancipation. Most importantly, the minor must show why he needs to be emancipated from his parents.
Any person or agency may petition the court to decide issues of custody according to North Carolina General Statutes Sections 50:13.1 through 50:13-9. When the dispute is between parents, however, North Carolina requires that they must first have attempted to mediate their differences with a court-appointed third party. North Carolina subscribes to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act which provides that a parent's rights cannot be terminated or changed without notice and the opportunity to appear in court whether they live in the state or not. The UCCJEA also builds in protection against a parent who might want to shop jurisdiction by relocating to another state whose laws may be more favorable to him.
The concept of joint custody is not prevalent in North Carolina. More likely, if your matter is litigated to conclusion, the judge will award one parent primary physical custody, meaning that the child lives the majority of the time in that parent's home. Secondary custody is North Carolina's term for visitation rights. A judge may also vest sole power to make major decisions on the child's behalf with the parent who has primary physical custody. This sort of arrangement is commonly referred to as sole custody. The term joint custody does have child support implications, however. If the parent with secondary custody has visitation 123 nights a year or more (more than two nights a week) a joint custody worksheet is used to calculate child support.
A parent's right to have custody of his child over a relative or non-relation is nearly absolute in this state. North Carolina has also abandoned what was once called the tender years doctrine, which heavily favored mothers in custody issues. However, in the case of infants and toddlers, many judges still lean toward the mother for primary physical custody.
The Role of the Child
North Carolina statutes do not obligate a judge to consider the child's preference when deciding custody, but judges do have that option and many will use it. While some states set a given age after which a child can testify on his own behalf, North Carolina courts make this determination on an individual basis after considering the maturity of the child. Rarely is the child put through the stress of being placed on the witness stand. He will be interviewed "in camera," meaning that his testimony is taken in a more relaxed setting in the judge's chambers and by the judge rather than the opposing attorney.
Child custody guidelines
Indiana courts shall determine custody and enter a custody order on behalf of the child's best interests. In determining the best interest of the child, the court does not favor or give special treatment to either parent. The court will consider all factors such as the age and sex of the child, the wishes of the child's parents, the wishes of the child if he or she is 14 years of age or older, and the interrelationship of the child with their parents, siblings and other relatives. Also, the court will look at the child's ability to adapt to new situations such as a change of home, school or community. Furthermore, the court will examine the mental and physical health of each parent and child, and any evidence of past violence or abuse.
Joint legal custody guidelines
Indiana courts may award joint custody to parents if it finds that it works in the best interests of the child. It's possible for the court to award joint custody that is not physical joint custody. This means that the parent who doesn't have full-time custody can interact with the child via phone and letters only. In determining whether to award joint custody, the court will consider many factors as well as the parents' agreement to partake in joint custody. Indiana courts shall consider the suitability of each parent for custody, whether the parents are willing and able to cooperate in the care of their child, the wishes of the child and the child's relationship with each parent. The court will look a the distance between each parent's residence and if it's in close proximity to share joint custody of their child.
Laws for parenting time
Upon awarding joint custody to a child's parents in Indiana, the court will determine which activities are applicable to parenting time. Indiana courts require parents to keep each other on notice when personal information changes, when one moves or when one changes plans that involve spending time with the child. A child and a custodial parent may be entitled to private communications that do not require the other custodial parent to be involved. Both parents may have access to telephone calls with the child during reasonable hours and duration, and without interference from the other parent. The court may even require each parent to respect the private residence of the parent in custody of the child and to be punctual when exchanging the child for scheduled parenting time.
Types of Custody
Delaware recognizes two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the authority to make major decisions regarding the welfare of the child, including matters related to education, religion and medical treatment. Physical custody refers to where the child stays overnight. Both types of custody can be shared between parents or held solely by one parent. Shared physical custody does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split, and the parent with more custody time is referred to as the primary residential parent.
Parents who can reach agreement on custody are free to draft their own parenting plan in Delaware. The court will review the plan to ensure that it is in the best interest of the child before it will become part of any court order. The best interest factors a judge will consider, in either approving a parenting plan or making its own determination, include the relationship between the child and each parent, the child's adjustment to home, school and community, and the mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
When it comes to parent-child contact, the parent with less physical custody generally has the right to visitation. An exception to this rule is if the court finds that the parent would endanger the physical or emotional health of the child. Once a visitation order has been put in place, the parent with primary residential custody may not interfere with the other parent's access to the child. If access is wrongfully denied, the aggrieved parent may petition the court for sanctions, including more contact time, fines against the other parent, or even imprisonment.
Existing custody and visitation orders may be modified under certain circumstances in Delaware. By law, orders made by agreement of the parties and without a hearing may be modified at any time if a change is found to be in the child's best interest. If the order was made after a full hearing, it may only be modified after two years have passed, unless it can be shown that the existing order would seriously endanger the child's physical or emotional health. If it has been more than two years, the court may modify the order if it is in the best interests of the child after taking into consideration both parents' compliance with the existing order and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of modification.
Like other states, Texas encourages parents to form their own parenting plans to address issues regarding their children post-divorce. If you have a reasonably amicable relationship with your spouse and you can negotiate a parenting plan with her, you can commit its terms to writing and submit it to the court at any time during your divorce process. If the judge finds that the plan is in your children's best interests, he'll incorporate its terms into an official court order that eventually will become part of your decree. If your plan includes factors with which the judge isn't comfortable, he can send you and your spouse back to the drawing board to try to come up with a better one. If all else fails and you just can't reach an acceptable agreement, the judge will set the custody terms.
Texas law refers to legal custody as conservatorship. A child's conservator has the right to make all important decisions regarding his upbringing, such as schooling, religion and medical care. Parents can act together as joint conservators. You must state in the parenting plan you submit to the court which parent will serve as conservator or if you will serve as joint conservators. If you share conservatorship of your child, you should implement tie-breaking procedures in case you find yourselves on opposite sides of the fence regarding an important issue. If the court sets custody terms, Texas judges prefer ordering joint conservatorships in the belief that a child's best interests are served by having both parents actively involved in his life.
Physical custody is called possession in Texas. Assuming you and your spouse are joint conservators, which is common, the parent your child lives with most of the time is the managing conservator. The parent who has visitation is the possessory conservator. Parents who share joint possession of their child with a 50-50 time-sharing arrangement are joint managing conservators. If you can't agree on custody and a judge must decide for you, one of the factors the court considers is your child's feelings. Your child can't testify at trial, but if he's over 12 years old, the judge can talk to him in chambers regarding the issue.
Standard Possession Schedule
Texas courts want both parents to spend substantial time with their children post-divorce. The state has a statutory "standard possession schedule" -- what other states might call a visitation schedule -- and judges often defer to this when they must decide custody terms at trial. You can feel free to fall back on it when you're negotiating a parenting plan with your spouse. The schedule provides for the possessory conservator to have his child on the first, third and fifth weekends of the month. If you're not the managing conservator, you also would share Thursday evenings with your child -- although not necessarily overnight -- as well as a month in the summer. Holidays are rotated between parents. You might begin your negotiations for a parenting plan with this schedule, then tweak it to fit your family's needs.
If your divorce is particularly acrimonious and you and your spouse can't possibly agree on a parenting plan, a Texas judge can appoint a guardian ad litem for your child as part of the divorce process. This is an attorney who represents your child's interests. She will investigate your family and might order a custody evaluation in an effort to determine the best interests of your child. Judges rely on these best interests factors when deciding a custodial arrangement. They include your child's preference, the parenting abilities of each parent and the stability of your home environment. By law, judges cannot award joint managing conservatorship if your family has a history of domestic violence, child neglect or child abuse. Texas law also takes a strong position against false allegations of abuse in custody disputes. The state's code allows a judge to impose a $500 fine on the parent who levels trumped-up charges.
Section 36-6-101 of the Tennessee Code identifies factors used to determine custody, including the emotional bond between the parent and the child, physical and mental health of the parent, stability of the family and household and the ability of the parent to provide the required care to the child in regards to food, clothing, medical attention and education. The preference of a child over the age of 12 is considered by the court, although it is not the determining factor.
Tennessee law allows a presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child, unless clear and convincing evidence to the contrary is presented. Under Tennessee Code 36-6-412, the court is prohibited from making an assumption of parental fitness based on the gender of the parent. In 2005 a decision by the Tennessee Appeals Court in Berry v. Berry further stated that the sexuality of the parent may not exclude the parent from custody or visitation.
Tennessee Code 36-6-406 specifies circumstances in which child custody should be restricted. Custody may not be granted to a parent who has been convicted of sexual abuse or assault of a child or who has abandoned the child for a period of more than 18 months. A parent found to have committed child abuse or neglect as defined by 39-15-401 and 39-15-402 may not be awarded joint or sole custody of the child. Under these circumstances, visitation is limited and requires supervision.
Tennessee law allows modification of child custody if a significant change has occurred that affects the child directly and requires redetermination of custody. Custody may be modified if the needs of the child have substantially changed or because of a change in a parent's situation that prevents successful parenting.
Custody is defined as the physical and legal control and responsibility for a minor child. Physical custody means that the child will live in the residence of the custodial parent. Legal custody means that the custodial parent has the right and responsibility to care for the child, including making decisions regarding the child’s educational and medical needs. Virginia courts have jurisdiction over custody cases if the child lives in the state and at least one parent lives or works in the state; or if the child resided in Virginia within the last 6 months and was only removed from the state because a custodial parent moved out of the state.
Factors for Granting Custody
When a court is to determine which parent will be granted custody of the children, there is no presumption that either parent is more fit. Instead the court must examine several factors in determining which parent would be in the best interests of the child. Those factors include: the age of the child, the physical and mental condition of the child, the child’s needs, the relationship between the child and each parent, the parents’ roles in caring for the child, the willingness and ability of the parents, any history of alcohol or drug abuse by either parent and any history of domestic abuse.
Modifications to Custody
Custody agreements are very rarely modified. Courts believe that the least amount of disruption is always in the best interest of the child. If a parent wishes to modify the existing custody agreement, he has the burden of showing that there was a significant change in circumstances necessary to force a change. The same court that determined the original custody placement shall hear the request for modification.
If a child is visiting with one parent and that parent fails to return the child to the custodial parent on time, the custodial parent must notify the local police. If within 48 hours the parent still fails to return the child, she will be charged with one of two crimes depending on the severity of the circumstances. If the parent kept the child within the state, she can be charged with a misdemeanor and be subject to a $25 fine or 30 days in jail. If the parent left the state with the child, the crime is felony and is punishable by a fine of $250 to $1000 and up to 1 year in jail.
Third Party Custody
In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, will try to gain custody of a child. In these cases, the third party must prove that one or more of the parents are unfit to raise the child. Examples of unfit parenting include drug or alcohol abuse, instances of child abuse or neglect, or situations in which the child is subjected to dangerous circumstances. If a third party already has custody of a child, the natural parent must prove that a change in custody, particularly custody given to the parent, would benefit the child's physical and emotional well being.
Preferential Treatment Towards Mothers
In the case of Ex Parte Devine, the Alabama courts attempted to put an end to the preferential treatment toward mothers in custody cases. Rather than immediately assuming that a child is best suited to live with his mother, the courts now seek to determine the best possible circumstances for the child, regardless of the gender of the parent. In determining custody, the courts take into consideration the sex, age and emotional needs of the child, educational considerations, the child's parental preference, and any court testimony from witnesses.
In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. Domestic violence, cruelty to your spouse, mental illness that does not respond to treatment, religious affiliation or activity that might have adversely affected the child, and homosexuality are all examples of parental conduct that will carefully be examined by the courts according to Alabama law. Infidelity is not automatically grounds for improper conduct but if the behavior had a significant and negative impact on the child, the courts might take this into consideration when determining custody.
The Alabama courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if a no-visitation policy was agreed upon by both parents. In cases where children do not want to visit with one of their parents based on reservations that are not proven and factual, the courts can order custody, regardless of the child's wishes. Parents who go against the visitation orders of the court might be required to sign a bond stating that they no longer will interfere with the court's visitation order.
In determining child support, the court factors in the income of both parents, health insurance costs, the ages of the children, and additional child support or alimony paid to another party. The courts might deviate from these laws in certain circumstances, including shared custody, high education expenses and substantial costs incurred from traveling to visit one or more custodial child.
A prime consideration in Kentucky child custody laws is which parent historically provided primary care for a child. Although not definitive, a parent who provided the greater degree of care for the child tends to be favored when a court considers a future custodial arrangement.
Kentucky law establishes a preference for joint custody. Joint custody occurs when both parents share in making major decisions for a child, especially in the matters of education, health and religion. One parent is designated as the primary residential custodian of the child. In other words, the child has a "home base" where she lives a majority of the time. The noncustodial parent has regular and reasonable visitation with the child. Reasonable and regular visitation is a schedule along the lines of weekends, one overnight during the week, alternating holidays and an extended visitation (three to six weeks) during the summer.
The preference of a child is not determinative of custody in Kentucky. With that understood, the court will listen to an older child's considerations in regard to custody issues. An older child typically is defined as a child 12 years and older, depending on the maturity level exhibited by that youngster.
Change of Custody
Kentucky law imposes a high bar to change custody. From a legal standpoint, a parent that desires to change the custody of a minor child needs to prove what is known as a material change of circumstances. A material change of circumstances exists when the status alters to such a degree that maintaining the present custodial arrangement is not prudent. For example, the custodial parent could develop a significant health problem that makes it impossible for her to care for the children on a consistent basis.
In general, child custody in Washington is awarded pursuant to a parenting plan. These plans can be submitted to the court by either parent during the course of a custody proceeding, and they state what the parents want in terms of visitation and custody. In reviewing, approving or modifying the parenting plan, the court will determine both matters of custody (the the ability of one or both parents to make decisions about the child's care) as well as who get physical custody (residency) of the child.
Washington courts can award joint custody and can take into consideration any factors that affect the child's best interest when making this determination. In figuring out if joint custody is appropriate, the court considers the extent of the parent's past participation in custody decisions, if the parents are able to cooperate with one another in parenting decisions and their physical locations and its affect on their ability to make mutual decisions.
Courts may also allow for joint physical custody (residency) when determining custody matters. However, courts can only grant this if both parents have agreed to the provisions of the parenting plan knowingly and voluntarily, or if the parents have shown they can cooperate and can be available to each other as far as the care of the children requires.
Washington also allows for modification of parenting plans. The courts can make a alteration to the parenting plan if it finds there has been a significant change of circumstances such that a change in the plan is necessary to preserve the best interests of the child. The original parenting plan will remain in place, unless the court finds that the parents have agreed to the new plan, the child has effectively been integrated into the family of the parent asking for the change with the consent of the other parent, the environment in which the child lives is detrimental to their health or the court has found the non-moving parent in contempt twice within the last three years.