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
- Texas Child Support Modification and Enforcement: Answers to FAQsIn Texas, there are strict limits on when parents can petition for a modification of child support. There are also strict penalties for violating child support orders. Learn what you need to know if you cannot meet your child support obligations or if your former spouse is refusing to pay.
- USFSPA: Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection ActThe intention of Congress in 1982 in creating the USFSPA was to ensure that former spouses of military members receive financial protection after the marriage is over. This Act could protect the former spouse through divisions in military retirement pay in becoming marital property when the couple dissolve the relationship.
- Legal Options for Child Custody in CaliforniaChild custody is often disputes in divorce cases in California. It is common for each parent to believe that the children would be better off with them. Parents have the ability to work out an agreement related to child custody without having to have the judge make important decisions regarding child custody. However, if parents cannot reach an agreement, they may have to litigate the matter.
- Does My Civilian Spouse Automatically Get Full Custody?Before the divorce becomes final, it is important for a parenting plan’s creation to occur between the two parties for the time and educational purposes of any child or children affected by the separation of parents. When the military spouse faces deployment, the child may need to remain with the non-military parent even if he or she does not have custody.
- New York Family Law Cases: Custody and VisitationFamilies in New York face custody battles and considerations with visitation for the other parent due to divorce and separation with spouses. The best interests of the child are important and what are sought in these situations so that he or she has a loving and nurturing environment with visitation from the parent without primary custody.
- Custody Battles and Family Law in CaliforniaFighting for the right to raise a child in California occurs frequently due to the divorce rate throughout the state and the country. However, obtain joint or primary custody and enduring visitation rights becomes complicated if the courts are also part of the process between the divorced spouses and the children.
- Modifying Parenting Plans Years after a DivorceParenting plans setup through the courts by judgment may change depending on certain factors when both ex-spouses are willing to alter previous plans. The timeframe to make these changes may depend on the state, and any other factors usually greatly involve both parents that ensure the upbringing of the child is taken care of in these situations.
- Physical versus Legal Custody in New York StateNew York recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical. Either or both types of custody may be sole or joint in nature. Additionally, more courts are recognizing the parents’ ability to negotiate their own terms and parenting plans so that the legal designations are not as stringent as they were years ago.
- Who Gets the Family Pet in New York Divorce Cases?It is common in divorce cases for spouses not to agree on how to divide their property. They may also disagree as to which party should have custody of their children. Family pets are another point of contention in these families, and the parties may have very strong feelings about who should get the family pet.
- Washington DC Child Custody Arrangement OptionsChild custody arrangements are often difficult to manage when both parents are attempting to acquire primary custody. There are diverse options available based on the circumstances, and the divorced or separated couple should research and understand each before proceeding through a court.
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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.