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!
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Articles on HG.org Related to Child Custody Law
- What Is the Time Limitation for Taking a Child Out of the Country?Family law cases can often be emotionally straining. Sometimes, one parent is given primary custody at the objection of the other parent. The non-custodial parent may attempt to become the primary custodian by removing the child from the state or country, making it more difficult for the other parent to find him or her and to enforce the order.
- Can I Challenge Final Decision Making Authority?In Georgia, a judge can designate or parents can decide on which parent will have final decision making authority. This authority extends to certain important aspects of the child’s life.
- Child Custody After Common Law MarriagesCommon law marriage used to be much more widely accepted than it is today. Today, only a handful of states recognize common law marriage. But, in those states that do, what is the process for child custody when the spouses separate?
- In a Breakup, Who Gets Custody of the Dog?For many couples, a dog is just like a child. So, when a breakup or divorce happens, it can signal the beginning of a battle over custody of the dog. What does the law say? Who gets custody of the dog? Will a court even hear such a case?
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- Can I Get in Trouble for Not Returning to the United States with My Child from Florida?While parents are usually free to move around the country, into other territories owned by the United States and to other parts of the world, their ability to take their children with them may be inhibited. These rights may be restricted if the other parent or individual has a Florida court order pertaining to visitation or shared parenting time.
- What Are the Questions I Need to Ask My Lawyer in a Child Custody Case?Child custody cases can be some of the most contentious. They can also be complex, and the way that they are decided varies from each state and region. To better prepare for a custody dispute, parents may retain the services of family law lawyers to help advise them of the process entailed in a child custody case.
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- Change of Circumstances or Good Cause Required to Revisit Custody DefinedDivorce lawyer from Rochester, Michigan explains that a change of circumstances or good cause is required before the court may revisit custody
- 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.