The recent split of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise captured the attention of the nation. Pictures of Katie and daughter Suri filled the newsstands as speculation over their divorce and custody discussions filled the airwaves. While not every custody case commands this type of attention, every custody case is just as important to the family affected by it.
It is important for separating parents and their families to understand what the term “custody” means. In Delaware, custody means decision making authority. As explained by the Delaware Family Court, “the parent who has custody of his or her child decides where the child will live, what school the child will attend, what doctors the child will see, and what religion the child will follow.” The Delaware Family Court has the authority to award “joint custody” or “sole custody.” If parents have joint custody, they must talk to each other and work together to make joint decisions regarding the choice of the child’s school, religion, and doctors. When only one parent has decision making authority, that is referred to as sole custody.
In addition to awarding custody, the Family Court has the authority to determine placement – where the child will live. If parents have shared placement, their child will spend equal time per year with each parent. If one parent has primary placement then the child will reside with that parent more than half of the time and will visit with the other parent.
Like Katie and Tom, parents may reach an agreement on custody and placement. For parties who cannot reach an agreement, the Delaware Family Court will determine both custody and placement based on what arrangement is in the best interests of a child. Additional information on the best interest standard in Delaware is available in my prior post entitled “Determining The Best Interests Of A Child.”
Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office. You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or firstname.lastname@example.org