Child Custody Law
What is Child Custody law? This subset of law also often overlaps with facets of divorce law. Child custody refers to the legal obligation and right a parent or guardian has to care for, make decisions for, supervise, educate and control a minor child for whom he/she is responsible. The issue of child custody may arise in any of the following situations: when a married couple with a minor child of the marriage seeks a divorce; when two unmarried parents of a minor child cannot come to an agreement about custody outside of court; when a parent or legal guardian is found to be unfit or dangerous for the child’s well-being by a court or state agency; and when either or both parents are absent or deceased. Custody is not limited to the child’s parent, but can also be awarded to other family members, to a foster parent or group home, or to other organizations or institutions.
There are two main categories for child custody, legal and physical, which are then also assigned as either sole or joint. Legal custody deals more with the rights and responsibilities of a parent as opposed to where the child resides. It allocates who can make decisions about major issues in the child’s life, such as education, medical and healthcare decisions and the child’s overall welfare. An award of joint legal custody makes it necessary for the responsible parties to communicate and work with one another to share in these decisions. Physical custody addresses where the child will reside and for how long, and who will have the day to day responsibility and right to make necessary decisions regarding the child’s daily activities and wellbeing. When joint physical custody is awarded, the child will spend time residing with both parents and/or guardians. This does not mean that the time must be divided equally; rather it might be an arrangement explicitly spelled out by the parties or based on stated guidelines and shared payment of costs for raising the child.
All states have adopted the policy that child custody arrangements and awards must be based upon the best interest of the child. Although the factors considered for determining this may vary from state to state. When the parents/guardians can get along and agree to it, the court may award joint physical and/or joint legal custody. Generally, when one parent/guardian is granted sole physical custody, the other parent/guardian will be awarded visitation, which includes weekends, some holidays and vacation time and other occasions, as applicable. Courts reserve the right to modify custody arrangements when the circumstances call for it.
For more information about individual child custody laws, procedures and related topics for U.S. states, please visit our U.S. Divorce Law Center.
Know Your Rights!
- Factors Affecting Child Custody and Visitation
- How Effective Is Mediation in Child Custody Disputes?
- How to Establish Paternity in Child Support and Custody Disputes
- My Ex Is Moving Away With The Children, What Can I Do?
- What Are a Father's Child Custody Rights
- What is the Difference Between Adoption and Guardianship?
- Who Is More Likely to Get Custody: a Mother or a Father?
Articles on HG.org Related to Child Custody Law
- What Do You Do When Your Ex Kidnaps Your Kids?It is a nightmare scenario that occurs all too often: after a breakup or divorce, your ex picks up your kids when they are not supposed to or disappears with them after a visitation. Sometimes this is done to hurt the other parent, sometimes it is done out of a sincere desire to spend time with the child(ren). Whatever the case, the effect is the same: terror, confusion, concern, and often a nagging question about what one should do. So, what do you do when your ex kidnaps your kids?
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- Who Is More Likely to Get Custody: a Mother or a Father?The question of which parent is more likely to get custody is an ever evolving one. Once, there was a policy of ensuring that the mother always received custody, called the “tender years” doctrine, which assumed that young children needed to be with their mothers in their early, developmental years. But more recently, courts and lawmakers have realized that the mother is not always in the best position to provide a safe and healthy environment for children.
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- What Are a Father's Child Custody RightsHistorically, one often thinks of a bygone era where child custody was always seen as a woman's right. But, times have changed and a more enlightened world has realized that a mother as the sole custodial parent is not always the best solution. Thus, what are a father's custody rights today?
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- My Ex Is Moving Away With The Children, What Can I Do?You are divorced, or were never married, but have children with your ex. You share custody or, at the very least have visitation rights. But now your ex tells you s/he is moving someplace with the kids that would make seeing your children as regularly as you would like much more difficult.
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Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.
Child Custody Law - US
- ABA - Center on Children and the Law
- ABA - Custody Committee
The Custody Committee studies and strives for improvements in the law relating to child custody and visitation, such as development of a model joint custody statute, standards for relocating children and rights of stepparents and unwed parents.
- Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is a federal agency funding state, territory, local, and tribal organizations to provide family assistance (welfare), child support, child care, Head Start, child welfare, and other programs relating to children and families.
- Child Custody - Overview
In cases of divorce, the court of jurisdiction for the divorce proceedings also determines child custody arrangements.
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)
Full text of the UCCJEA, which limits child custody jurisdiction to one state, avoiding competing orders, and provides enforcement provisions for child custody orders.