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Child Custody and Support

Historical Overview Of Custody Law, Factors In Determining The Child's Best Interest, The Number Of Children In Custody Allocations

Child custody refers to the legal and physical rights and responsibilities parents have with respect to their child. Legal child custody refers to the right to make all major decisions regarding the child's health, welfare, education, and religious training. Physical custody is the right to the daily care and control of the child. The parents' marital status in relation to each other has no bearing on the determination of custody. There are different types of child custody that connote various combinations of legal and physical rights.

Sole legal custody gives one parent the right to legal custody, independent of the other parent. This parent is called the "custodial" parent and the other parent is referred to as the "noncustodial" parent. Noncustodial parents typically have visitation rights, including overnight visits and vacations.

Sole physical custody grants exclusive physical custody to one parent. Granting one parent both sole legal and physical custody is typically done only when the other parent has neglected or abused the child.

Joint legal custody grants legal custody rights to both parents equally. This means that each parent needs to inform and achieve agreement with the other parent before making major decisions for the child.

Joint physical custody grants physical custody rights to both parents, although the actual amount of time each parent spends with the child may not be equal. Parents with joint physical custody usually have a parenting plan that specifies the actual times the child will spend with each parent.

Split custody refers to "splitting" siblings between parents and may entail any combination of physical and legal custody.

If parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will impose an arrangement that is based on the "child's best interests."

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 2