Kelly Clarkson is Awarded Primary Custody of Children in Divorce: What does this mean?

Defining Primary Custody Factors In Arizona

There are a few things that every American has in common, and one of them is that we all love Kelly Clarkson. Kelly Clarkson rose to fame in 2002 after becoming the OG American Idol. She put out classic hits like “Since U Been Gone” and “Breakaway,” and expanded further into show business by being a judge on “The Voice” and hosting her own talk show. She married talent manager Brandon Blackstock in 2013, and the couple share two children. Sadly, on June 4, 2020, she decided her life would not suck without Blackstock, wanted to breakaway, and filed for divorce.

Clarkson has since been granted primary physical custody of her children, in Los Angeles, while Blackstock remains in Montana. Blackstock, who has two other children from a previous marriage, will have visitation the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of the months. It is his responsibility to travel to Los Angeles on the 1st and 5th weekends, and the children will be flown to Montana every 3rd weekend of the month. Blackstock has also requested a whopping $436,000 per month in support payments from Clarkson- $301,000 in alimony and $135,000 in child support.

Happy woman with her kids after awarded her primary custody of them
 

What is Primary Custody?

If two parents don’t have joint custody, also referred to as 50/50 or split custody, after a divorce, the parent who has more time with the children has “primary custody” of them. Some states define primary custody as the parent who has the child 61% of the time or more.

In Arizona, custody is divided into two parts: parenting time and legal decision making. People often associate parenting time with custody, but both parents can still have legal decision making, or the authority to decide things like education, medical treatment, and religious upbringing for the children. While Clarkson has the majority of the parenting time, nothing suggests that she and Blackstock don’t share equal decision making.

What Factors Does the Family Court look at when deciding custody?

In Arizona and many other states, custody decisions are made with the child’s best interests being the number one priority. It is also usually assumed that it is in the child’s best interests to have as close to equal time with each parent as possible.

The factors the court will look at when determining whether to deviate from 50/50 custody are:

  • Each parent’s physical, mental, emotional, and financial capability to care for the children
  • Any physical or mental health conditions of either parent
  • The children’s relationship with each parent and any new partners and children of each parent
  • If time with one parent will require adjustment to a new school, community, group of friends, etc.
  • Special needs of the child
  • The parents’ wishes, as well as the children’s wishes when they reach a certain level of intelligence and maturity (usually around 12)

Does the Mother always get Primary Custody?

Many people assume that the mother will automatically be granted primary custody of her children in a divorce, and the father might get 2 weekends per month and summer vacations. This may have been true in the past, but family courts have evolved and now have a preference for awarding each parent equal time with their children. Here, Blackstock lives in Montana, while the children’s primary residence is in Los Angeles. The travel schedule for their visitation is already burdensome at three times per month. If Blackstock lived in Los Angeles, the judge likely would have ordered something closer to a 50/50 split.

What is the difference between Primary Custody and Full Custody?

Primary custody and full custody are terms that can be used interchangeably. When one parent has full custody, the other parent can still have some parenting time or legal decision making for the child. This is not to be confused with sole custody, when one parent has all of the parenting time and legal decision making.

Is Custody always just awarded to one parent?

Modern family courts assume that it is best for the child to have time with both parents. However, there are times when it is better for one parent to have primary or sole custody. When one parent is abusive, has a mental health issue, struggles with substance abuse, or is incarcerated, the other parent is typically awarded custody. One parent may also be awarded full custody if the other parent is deployed or lives overseas.

The Pros and Cons of Primary Custody

Pros of Primary Custody

  • More custody for you means less support paid or more support received by you
  • Less time spent shuttling kids back and forth between households
  • The children maintain a sense of normalcy living in the same house, going to the same school, etc.
  • The other parent can still have quality time with the children

Cons of Primary Custody

  • The children will probably miss spending time with the noncustodial parent
  • The children may struggle to adjust to new routines and life without the other parent
  • The non-custodial parent may focus on having fun with the children while the parent with primary custody is responsible for discipline, education, etc.
  • The parent that isn’t awarded primary custody may feel like a guest in their children’s lives, or gain an unearned reputation of being a bad parent

Besides her husband requesting hundreds of thousands of dollars in support payments per month, Kelly Clarkson is going through something very similar to what you or someone you care about has experienced. To make sure that her children’s lives wouldn’t be uprooted by a move or constant flights to Montana, she hired a family law attorney to help achieve the best results for her family. However, you don’t have to be a wealthy celebrity to hire expert legal representation when you’re involved in a family law matter. Our Arizona family law attorneys have years of experience representing clients through divorce and custody matters just like yours. To get started with your free consultation, call My AZ Lawyers at (480) 448-9400.

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