Whether your marriage lasted less than five years or longer than 20, if you’ve decided to file for a divorce in a West Virginia court, you have some decisions to make, especially with regard to your children. Like all good parents, you want what is best for your kids. You also undoubtedly understand that a divorce is going to disrupt their lives, although it doesn’t have to ruin them.
If you’re considering asking the court to grant you sole custody because you believe it is in your children’s best interest to do so, be prepared to provide legitimate reasons that may convince the court to grant your request. While you may not want to have a relationship with your ex anymore, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is an unfit parent. That’s what the court will want you to demonstrate.
Understanding physical versus legal child custody
When the court issues a child custody order in your case, numerous terms of agreement will be contained therein. A primary issue will be whether your children will live with both parents part-time or only one full-time. The court will also determine which parent (or whether both) will have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the children. Physical custody refers to living arrangements, while legal custody refers to the authority to make decisions.
If you plan on seeking sole custody of your children in a divorce, you’re asking the court to order that your children live with you full-time and that you will not have to seek agreement from your ex when making decisions regarding your children’s health, education or other important issues.
Reasons why a judge might find a parent unfit for custody
The following list includes numerous examples that a family court judge might consider reasonable for granting sole child custody to one parent over the other:
- One parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
- There is evidence of child neglect or domestic violence.
- One parent shows evidence that the other exposes children to people or things that place them at risk.
- A parent has been in jail.
- A parent has died.
If you tell the court that your ex abuses drugs or alcohol, the judge overseeing your case is going to expect you to substantiate your claim by providing evidence. The same is true for allegations of child neglect or abuse. Your being convinced of it is one thing. Convincing the court that your ex is unfit for custody is an entirely separate issue.
Never hesitate to reach out for support
Keeping your children safe is a top priority at any time, but especially in a divorce, if you believe that being with their other parent places them at risk. You shouldn’t hesitate to tap into local resources (i.e., law enforcement, family and friends, counselors, legal advocates, etc.,) to help your children cope with your divorce and to protect your parental rights and their best interests throughout the proceedings.