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.

Copyright HG.org

Know Your Rights!

Articles on HG.org Related to Child Custody Law

  • What Your Child Custody Arrangement Means for Your Tax Return
    You may be ready to start your taxes. You’ve collected your W-2, 1099’s and other documents. You have last year’s tax form for guidance. But, if you’ve gotten divorced in the last year, this year’s taxes may be very different.
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support in Utah
    For parents, child support in the event of a spousal separation or divorce is one of the most serious issues that they will have to face. If you are a parent and are concerned about your rights to child support, or your child support obligation, the following answers some of the most FAQs about child support in Utah.
  • Why Should I Go through Divorce Mediation?
    Divorce mediation is an alternative to litigating issues. In some jurisdictions, mediation is required in all family law cases. However, mediation can also be proposed by one of the parties even absent the court’s order to participate in it.
  • What Decisions Does the Judge Make in Divorce Cases?
    A family law judge has a tremendous amount of power in divorce cases. He or she may make a variety of decisions that can impact spouses for years to come.
  • Basics of Pennsylvania Family Law Litigation
    What does “going to court” mean? That depends on whether you’re referring to the world of prime-time television (L.A. Law for my generation) or the real world of family law litigation. On prime-time television, it means filing an action and a short time later having a full hearing before a judge with everything wrapped up within an hour. The real world is much different.
  • What Are the Steps I Need to Take When Dealing with a Divorce in Salt Lake City?
    Making the decision to file for divorce is not always easy because there are a lot of things to take into consideration, personally, financially, and legally. If you make the decision to seek a divorce, it is important to remember that in dealing with a divorce in Salt Lake City, there are some legal requirements that have to be taken, some of which are discussed below.
  • How to Enforce Court Orders in Divorce
    When a person receives an order in a divorce case, this order is backed up by the power of the court. If a spouse refuses to comply with the instructions included in the court order, there are usually ways to compel the spouse to follow the judge’s instructions.
  • Grandparents’ Visitation Rights in Pennsylvania
    A recent Westmoreland County ruling could affect the way Pennsylvania courts handle visitation and custody rights of grandparents.
  • Deciding Where Possessions Go During a Divorce
    If divorcing couples are unable to agree on the distribution of their marital possessions, the court steps in and divides the property for them.
  • 6 Things to Do After Receiving Divorce Papers
    Sometimes divorce is finally filed after years of separation and is well anticipated. In other cases, it comes as a complete surprise to the person receiving paperwork. After receiving divorce papers, individuals must take immediate action to protect their legal rights and future.
  • All Family Law Articles

    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.

Organizations Related to Child Custody Law

Publications Related to Child Custody Law


Contact a Lawyer

Find a Local Lawyer