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Child Custody Law



Child custody laws vary from state to state. Yet, there are some basics that are fairly universal across jurisdictions.

In general, child custody rights refer to the rights a parent or parents are awarded as a result of a custody trial. These rights basically enable a parent to make important decisions on a childs behalf.

Understanding Child Custody Laws

There are two overall types of child custody. The first is known as physical custody. This simply refers to whom the child lives with.

The other type of custody is legal custody. This refers to who has the authority to make decisions about such things as medical, educational, and religious matters. In custody disputes between parents, this is usually the type of custody that is being referred to.

There are two major sub-categories of legal custody. The first is sole custody. This is when a court awards only one parent with complete custody of a child.

The other type of legal custody is joint custody. This is when both parents are awarded some physical and legal custody rights.

(Two less common types of legal custody are split custody, where each parent has custody of at least one child, and third-party custody, where someone other than the parents has custody of a child.)

Determining Child Custody

A court will look at a large list of factors to conclude to whom it should award custody. Ultimately, the final decision will always be based on what the court deems is in the best interest of the child.

The following is a list of factors that a court may, but will not always, consider when making a decision as to custody.

  • Parents physical health
  • Parents emotional and mental health
  • Histories of child abuse
  • Parents financial status
  • Education of parents
  • The childs relationship with each parent

Child Visitations

Under child custody law, a parent who does not have physical custody of a child can still see his or her child. This is called child visitation, and it is usually up to the two parents to come to an agreement upon a visitation schedule. If they cannot come to an agreement, however, the court can intervene and order a visitation schedule.

There are two main types of visitations. Which type applies to your divorce or separation will depend on the specifics of your relationship.

The first type of visitation is unsupervised. This is when the non-custodial parent is allowed to visit the child without another person present.

The other type of visitation is supervised. This is when a court orders that a third party be present to oversee the visit. Supervised visits are often ordered by a court when a parent poses a possible threat to the child.

Child Support

Another element of child custody laws is child support. Child support is payment made by the non-custodial parent to the other parent to help pay for raising the child. If parents share custody of a child, then both parents pay toward child support.

Child support can go toward paying for food, housing, clothing, education, utilities, and other child-related costs. Child support is calculated differently from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and can only be modified by a court order.