Child Custody Facts

What is child custody?

Child custody is a legal term that applies to custodial rights to a child. Whether through divorce, breakups or children conceived outside of a relationship, it is common for children to be shuffled between two parents or to lose one parent altogether due to these conflicts. In some cases, children are affected in economic, social and emotional ways.

In most areas, the needs of children determine support and visitation as it pertains to child custody. Being behind on child support typically does not entitle the other parent to limit or stop visitation. Limiting or stopping visitation also does not excuse the parent from paying child support. These rules are in place to limit the impact parental bickering has on children after divorce.

When there is abuse

In cases where parent-to-parent abuse was occurring before the separation, visitation for the abusive parent can result in child abuse. It has been shown that a lack of previous child abuse does not mitigate the risk. The parent who perpetrated the spousal abuse may take out new frustrations on the visiting child.

In cases where abuse is apparent, visitation may still be granted. This is so that children can still have relationships with both of their parents. A court will typically order supervised visitation when it comes to abusive relationships. This varies from case-to-case, as some children will need to be taken away from the abusive parent altogether.

How divorce and custody battles affect children

Parents will often openly or subtly manipulate children during a divorce. They may want the child to side with them so they can do better in the divorce. These situations put children in tough situations where they feel they need to choose between their parents.

Hostility between parents and fear of abandonment appear to be the two biggest problems for children of all ages when coping with divorce. Children react to the anger they see in their parents. Even very small children get noticeably fussier when their parents are fighting. They will also notice when they get less time with one parent and may act out.

Economics, emotions and statistics

More than one million children are subject to divorce annually. As of 2012, there are roughly 1.25 million divorces per year in the United States alone. In most cases, one parent will have physical custody while the other has visitation rights.

In many cases, the custodial parent's income decreases after divorce. This means that the child will have to become accustomed to tighter finances. The effects may be subtle or drastic. Having to move to a less expensive home is common.

It has been observed that children between 3 and 5 years of age are more likely to think a divorce is their fault. Very little is known about how younger children feel about new arrangements. Older children are more likely to mourn, be angry or feel ashamed.

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