Consumer — 04 February 2014

500px-Parent-left_child-right_yellow-background.svgSpecial to American News Report

“Who will get custody of the kids?”

That’s one of the first questions that divorce lawyers are asked when a new client comes into the office.

And, let’s be honest, if you haven’t gone through a divorce yourself, you know someone who has. If children are involved, you no doubt have a story to tell.

The topic of child custody and payments is so pervasive that it’s even the topic for a powerful new independent film called “Romeo Misses a Payment”, which is reviewed in this Huffington Post article.

Away from Hollywood and back in real life, it’s actually pretty simple.  For Ellicott City, Maryland family law attorney Alan Fishbein, it’s all about trying to figure out what the client wants.

“Often we have to explain to the client the difference between joint legal custody and joint legal physical custody,” Fishbein told American News Report.

In joint legal custody, you share decision making about raising children with your “ex”, but the child will reside with one parent.

In joint legal physical custody, there are what Fishbein calls “all kind of permutations” — but it means that the children will live with each parent at a predetermined amount of time.

Sometimes it’s amicable. Many times it’s not.

“We see nasty custody cases a lot, quite obviously,” he said.

Fishbein says joint legal custody works when the parents are committed to it.

“Agreement on things like where they’ll go to school, which religion they’ll be raised in, and after school activities like athletics and music lessons can make a child custody discussion go very smoothly,” said Fishbein.

But often there are disagreements.

“This is where common sense has to intervene,” he said. “If the parent has been historically involved in decision making, then this is the right path.”

What happens if you can’t agree?

You can always go back to court, which is an advantage for the economically superior spouse.  In many states, there are mediators who are less expensive, but this is still a time consuming way to address an impasse.

“Solutions can be simple. I’ll pick the schools they go to, you pick the doctor,” said Fishbein. “Reasonable people can agree.”

But as is the case in many divorces, it can get very emotional, and the children are often used as pawns in an emotional battle between the divorcing spouses.

“These are people who can’t agree on the time of day,” said the lawyer. “So to expect them to agree on who will take them to music lessons, strains credulity.”

The man who inspired the movie “Romeo Makes a Payment” is Angelo Lobo. His divorce and child custody situation summarized this topic pretty well.

He told the Huffington Post, “Yes, I did go through a divorce and custody battle. So, I understand how hurtful and difficult the whole process can be on parents and children. I was inspired by my experience and wanted to be able to educate and provide support to people who were going through similar situations.”

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