Child Custody Law

What is Child Custody law?

Child Custody and Visitation 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.


Child Custody - Know Your Rights!

  • A Guide to Child Custody and Visitation Rights and Obligations

    Child custody includes the physical and legal responsibilities of parenting. Often, when one parent has sole physical custody the other parent will receive set visitation rights. When parents agree on child custody and visitation schedules, they can develop their own custody agreement. However, when the parents or guardians cannot come to an agreement on terms, they may need to go to court.

  • A Handbook to Child Visitation and Custody Laws

    The term "child custody" usually refers to the child's parent who has the right to spend the most time with the child and has the most responsibilities and rights associated with the child. Although sometimes a person who is not the child's parent may have these rights and responsibilities, these arrangements are usually referred to as "guardianships."

  • Factors Affecting Child Custody and Visitation

    When determining which parent should have primary custody, whether custody should be shared, and how much visitation each parent should have, courts must look at a number of factors. Of course, these factors vary from state to state, but the overall question is generally the same: "What is in the best interests of the child?" Answering the questions below will give you insight into the specific questions courts may ask to determine which parent (or both) should be granted custody.

  • How Effective Is Mediation in Child Custody Disputes?

    Disputes over child custody can be among the most heated. After all, the stakes are incredibly high when the issue of being able to see your own children is on the line. As a result, it may seem like the prospect of ever reaching an agreement with your child's other parent is highly unlikely, but mediation can often lead to surprisingly positive results.

  • How to Establish Paternity in Child Support and Custody Disputes

    When a married couple has a child, most jurisdictions presume that the husband is the father of the child (even if he is not). When an unmarried couple has a child, on the other hand, it is usually necessary to establish paternity as soon as possible after the baby is born. This protects the mother, the baby, and the father, by establishing everyone's rights with regard to one another, such as visitation, support, and inheritance.

  • 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.

  • What Are a Father's Child Custody Rights

    Historically, 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?

  • 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.

Child Custody Law Articles

  • Northwest Georgia Lawyer Near Me explains Filing for Separation and Divorce in Georgia
    Divorce can have lasting emotional and legal effects. Both separation and divorce affect adults and children emotionally in the short and long term. Getting legal help during the process can help you sleep better and perform better in your daily activities. This article by NW Georgia native Walt Moffitt, discusses how to separate, including finding the right court to file for divorce. Also, a couple getting divorced must wait before the marriage is officially over, and they can't live together during this time.
  • Michigan Child Custody Issues
    The divorce process is an extremely emotional time especially when deciding child custody issues. Michigan child custody laws determine who is awarded custody. Michigan courts prefer to award joint custody unless sole custody would be in the best interests of the child. The court considers factors such as the child’s age, physical and mental health, the parent’s ability to care for the child, and the child’s emotional attachment to the parent. Overall, Michigan courts always consider the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements.
  • Choosing a Guardian for Your Children
    When it comes to our children, we all plan for their future. We consider school districts when buying a house, find activities that fit their interests, sacrifice weekends to take them to practice or events, save money for college and try to instill in them different skills and values that will help in life. In all that planning, it is crucial to also include your wishes if something happens to you. Perhaps nothing is more important when planning your children’s future than selecting guardians for you minor children.
  • Are You Ready to Call It Quits on Your Marriage in Texas?
    If you have decided that you need a divorce, you did not come to a decision lightly. Before you throw yourself headlong into the divorce process, however, there are several points to keep in mind that can help you along the way. The most important move you can make in the protection of your parental and financial rights as you move forward is consulting with an experienced Texas divorce attorney early in the process.
  • Texas Family Law FAQs
    Family law is a broad and important branch of the law that is designed to help families resolve matters such as divorce, adoption, paternity, and more. If you are facing a family law concern, you naturally have pressing questions, and the answers to those asked most frequently may help. One of the most important steps you can take to help ensure that your family law concern is resolved fairly and that your best interests are supported is consulting with an experienced Killeenfamily law attorney early in the process.
  • Your Texas Divorce: Navigating Family Law Court
    Divorce is a complicated legal matter that most people have very little experience with. In addition, divorce comes with a good deal of emotional upheaval. If you are facing a divorce, the only option is proceeding forward through the difficult times ahead. There are some steps you can take to make your divorce process smoother. First, you are well-advised to have an experienced Texas divorce attorney as your skilled guide. Another thing you can do to help you navigate the difficult path ahead is to understand the ins and outs of the divorce process in Texas.
  • Dispelling 8 Common Divorce Myths in Texas
    Divorce has a bad reputation for a reason – it is a challenging legal process that comes with a lot of emotional baggage. With all of this going on, it is no wonder that there are a range of divorce myths out there that do not make things any easier.
  • Your Texas Divorce Guide
    If a Texas divorce is in your future, it is important to have a handle on what to expect. While every divorce involves the dissolution of a marital contract, no two divorces look exactly alike. However, every divorce must resolve the same terms and is guided by the same laws. The surest way to protect your parental and financial rights throughout the divorce process is by reaching out for the professional legal guidance of an experienced Texas divorce attorney early on.
  • What You Should Know Before Filing for Divorce in Texas
    If you have come to the difficult decision that you need a divorce, knowing what to expect as you go through the divorce process can help reduce the level of stress you experience and ensure that your rights are well protected along the way. Having an experienced Killeen divorce attorney in your corner is another important step forward.
  • If You Need a Child Custody Modification in Texas
    The child custody schedule you received in your original court order may have worked well at the time, but the State of Texas recognizes that families go through significant changes that include their children growing up. As a result, the state allows child custody modifications under specific circumstances. If you have questions or concerns about child custody modification, an experienced Texas child custody attorney can help.
  • Child Custody and Visitation Law Articles

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