When a couple ends their marriage and they have dependent children together, it's normal for the courts to treat the divorce itself as a separate issue from the custody of the kids. This can leave you with a lot of questions for a lawyer, and the most obvious concerns you might have are why is it done this way and how does it impact you.
Why Are They Separate Issues?
The courts handle these issues separately for a few reasons. First, not all child custody situations are tied to marriages, and it makes it more convenient for the system to address it as a distinct concern. Similarly, a parent's rights to see and be with their children are recognized as important outside the issue of ending a marriage. It can help the judge or the officer of the court who's handling the custody question to not be enmeshed in any disputes that are mostly about the termination of the marriage.
For example, one partner probably wouldn't want the judge to be thinking about their refusal to pay alimony when the same judge would have to decide on custody. While the courts are unbiased, it's still better to go at the two problems separately. It's not uncommon in less populated jurisdictions where one judge oversees everything for the matters to be adjudicated on different weeks. This provides a cooling-off period so the judge can come back to the issue with a clear head.
Do You Need Two Lawyers?
Given how most family law practices are structured, you likely won't need to hire a divorce attorney and a separate custody attorney. It's certainly your right to do so, and it might be helpful if you need to deal with a highly specific issue in either the divorce or custody phase of the matter. Most people, however, elect to have a single lawyer address both problems.
What If There Isn't a Big Dispute?
Not all divorces are contentious, and it can be advantageous to end a marriage on amicable terms, if possible. With that in mind, though, the divorce and any ensuing child custody concerns are still seen by the law as two matters. If both sides are amenable to a quick and clean resolution, their attorneys can draw up papers to have them sign. That said, there will still be different sets with one set of signatures for the divorce and another set for custody.
For more information, contact a law office like Hart Law Offices, PC.