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Divorcing actress, musician to share joint custody of children


Michigan residents will be familiar with actress Laura Dern's work in television and film; her blockbuster movie Jurassic Park has recently been re-released in 3D. Dern married Grammy-winning musician Ben Harper back in 2005, although Harper filed for divorce in October of 2010. They had already been separated for almost a year before the filing.

Recently, the couple's divorce was finalized, with a judge signing off on the settlement of a child custody dispute between the parents over their two children. Dern had initially sought primary physical custody of both children in her response to Harper's filing. However, it is reported that they will in fact share joint custody, with Harper paying some minimal child support, and neither of the two will pay alimony.

Stories like this may serve to highlight an important distinction in divorces where child custody is an issue: namely, that there are different types of custody to consider. Primary physical custody, which Dern demanded at the beginning, means essentially that the children live with that parent and that parent cares for them on a day-to-day basis. The other non-custodial parent may receive visitation rights.

Joint custody, as the name implies, involves more sharing of the children, although joint custody can be broken down further into physical and legal custody. Joint physical custody is actually rather rare today, in part because courts recognize the negative impacts on the family of trying to manage two independent living spaces for the children. Instead, joint legal custody may be an option when one parent has primary physical custody. Joint legal custody means both parents share in making important decisions about how the children will be raised, even though the children live with one parent while the other has visitation rights.

The law affords Michigan parents certain rights and options regarding their children in the event of a divorce. A legal professional can help divorcing parents ensure their interests - as well as the best interests of the child - are protected throughout the process.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Laura Dern, Ben Harper finalize their long-running divorce," Nardine Saad, Sept. 11, 2013

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