Whenever parents get divorced or lovers separate, one of the main problematic issues is that of child custody. If the separation occurs acrimoniously, then the battle becomes even messier, prompting innocent kids to be a pawn in people’s fights.
A third party, often the judiciary, subsequently becomes the final arbiter in the matter in the majority of cases. So, what is child custody? Why is it always chaotic?
Meaning of child custody
Child custody is referred to as the legal and practical relationship between a parent or guardian and the child/children in their care. There are two types of custody for children:
Legal custody: The authority to make choices involving the child, and
Physical custody: The obligation to keep the child in a home, provide for their needs, and take care of them.
Typically, children of married parents enjoy shared legal and physical custody. In cases involving divorce, annulment, separation, adoption, or parental death, decisions about child custody frequently become relevant. The standard for determining a child’s best interests is used to determine custody in the majority of jurisdictions.
Grounds for child custody
If there are children from the marriage that has been dissolved, the most contentious argument that arises during separation and divorce is always over who gets custody of them. If there are children from the marriage, the next most contentious argument is over how to divide up the marital assets.
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Since the future of the kids depends on who has custody of the child(ren), the court treats that matter seriously and with the utmost importance. The court considers these crucial factors, which can be said to be the primary considerations the judge takes into account when granting custody of a child, in determining the child’s best interest. They include;
The judge takes into account if either parent of the child(ren) has engaged in domestic violence, domestic abuse, neglect, or negligence. The court will never give custody of a child to a parent who is unfaithful, abusive, or aggressive.
The ability of each parent to meet the child/children’s physical requirements, emotional needs, and medical needs is taken into consideration by the court. A parent who is unable to provide for the child’s requirements both physically and financially will not be granted physical custody by the court.
.The psychological impact that custody will have on the kid will also be examined by the court. The court will consider if the child is content with his or her current situation or whether a change in custody and physical environment wouldn’t bother the child.
The child’s wishes will also be taken into account by the court. The child will be questioned by the court on where they would like to stay or which parent they would prefer to be with right now. This will only be carried out if the youngster is deemed old enough to make independent choices.
The court also takes into account the living arrangements and facilities at each parent’s residence. The child’s room in a parent’s home and access to roomy, comfortable surroundings are important considerations for the court.
Child custody for fathers
Fathers have just as much of a right to raise their children as their mother does. However, it might be difficult for fathers to enforce their parental rights, particularly if they are vying for custody of their kids. Despite the difficulties, obtaining custody as a father is not impossible. Here are some pointers to assist them with their custody case.
Pay Your child support payments
Make sure your child support payments are up to date if you want to keep custody of your kids. A lack of desire in parenting your child may be inferred from a failure to make your payments on time. Keep your records and payment documentation if you have unofficial agreements. If you’re having trouble making your payments, submit an adjustment request.
Build a strong relationship with your child
Even if you do not have custody of your child, it is important to make every effort to keep in touch with them by phoning and visiting whenever you can. Regularly updating them on your accomplishments, showing up for their activities, and communicating with them will make your child feel safe in your relationship and give them confidence that you are there for them.
Maintain your records
It is crucial to keep records of your visitation schedule, parenting decisions, and other ways you are involved in your child’s life since you will be required to prove your involvement in their lives. Making a parenting plan will be helpful to you in court when the custody of your child is being decided.
Prepare their space in your home
Your children will require a separate area in your house. You should make an effort to designate a unique space in your home for your child, regardless of how small your apartment is. During the custody hearing, the court will be interested in learning about your accommodations. Be ready to answer these questions.
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Child custody for mothers
Mothers have the same rights as fathers when it comes to seeking child custody. The court will consider the best interests of the child when determining custody and will consider factors such as the child’s age, relationship with each parent, and the ability of each parent to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs.
In cases where both parents are fit and capable of caring for the child, the court may grant joint custody, where both parents have shared physical and legal custody of the child. This means that the child will spend time living with both parents, and both parents will have a say in decision-making.
If a mother is seeking sole custody, she will need to demonstrate that the other parent is unfit or unable to provide proper care for the child. This can include instances of abuse, neglect, or other issues that would make the other parent a danger to the child.
It is important to note that child custody is not about punishing a parent or determining who is “right” or “wrong”. Instead, the goal is to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the child. This means that the child’s needs and well-being are the top priority and that both parents are encouraged to be involved in their child’s life to the extent that it is possible.
Mothers seeking child custody should consult with a lawyer and be prepared to present a strong case to the court. It is also important to remember that the process of seeking child custody can be emotionally difficult, and it is essential to seek support from friends, family, or a therapist as needed.
Types of child custody in Nigeria
After it has been determined that the child’s welfare is the top priority, it is critical to understand the various kinds of custody that the courts may award. They are, respectively, Joint Custody, Temporary Custody, Split Custody, Divided Custody, and Third-Party Custody, all of which are described below.
This typically occurs when the court orders both parents to share custody and decision-making power over the child. The result of this is that both parents are involved in making decisions that have an impact on the child’s life, such as those regarding their education, health, and other issues. Split custody is a little different from this.
It should be emphasised that shared custody does not always imply an equal or 50/50 time distribution because each situation is unique and relies on the child’s age, the parent’s availability and preferences, among other things. The parents must cooperate for the court to grant joint custody; otherwise, the order would be useless.
A parent is given temporary custody of a kid while a divorce or separation case is being resolved. When a dispute develops over the custody, guardianship, welfare, support, advancement, or education of the children of the marriage during a matrimonial case after the proceedings for the major relief have been instituted, this power may be used.
In the interim until the petition’s final decision, either the petitioner or respondent may apply for a temporary custody order. In situations of exceptional urgency or after giving the other party notice, the application may be lodged ex-parte. An oral application may be made in circumstances of severe urgency with the court’s permission before an ex-parte application or application on notice is made.
When one parent is given custody and the other is given care and control of the child, this occurs. In this situation, the parent with custody has the authority to decide the child’s major life decisions while the other parent has responsibility over the child’s daily physical rearing.
When the court orders a child to live with each parent during various periods of the year with reciprocal visitation rights, this situation arises. When this happens, it is anticipated that the child will be in the custody of one of the parents, who will then have full control over them.
Typically, the court will do this when it thinks it would be appropriate for the child(ren). Under the terms of section 71(3) of the Matrimonial Causes Act, it may give temporary or permanent custody of the child to a third party — someone who is not a party to the marriage — if it determines that doing so is in the child’s best interests. This order will be made if it is clear that neither party to the marriage is concerned about the welfare and raising of the child, if neither party has sought custody or if the court determines that neither party to the marriage is a fit and proper parent to have custody of the child.
How to file for child custody in Nigeria
To file for child custody in Nigeria, follow these steps:
Consult with a lawyer
It is advisable to speak with a lawyer before beginning the process of filing for child custody. A lawyer can guide the specific laws and procedures in your state and help you build a strong case.
File a petition
To initiate the process, you will need to file a petition with the court. This petition should include your name and contact information, the name and contact information of the other parent, and any relevant details about the child’s care and well-being.
Serve the petition
After filing the petition, you will need to serve it to the other parent. This can be done through a process server or by mailing the documents to the other parent’s last known address.
Attend the hearing
After the petition has been served, the court will schedule a hearing to determine child custody. Both parents will be required to attend this hearing, and each will have the opportunity to present their case to the judge.
Follow the court’s decision
After the hearing, the court will issue a ruling on child custody. It is important to follow the court’s decision, as failure to do so can result in legal consequences.
It is also worth noting that the process of filing for child custody in Nigeria may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case and the laws of your state. It is always best to consult with a lawyer to ensure that you are following the correct procedures.
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