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Five Things To Know About Child Custody Law



Child custody is an area of law that deals with parent and guardian rights over minor children. Oftentimes, child custody issues arise during the course of a divorce. However, a number of other circumstances can result in child custody issues.

This article will discuss five things you should know about child custody law.

1. Child Custody Decisions Are Based on the Child's Best Interests.

Courts that hear child custody and support cases make their decision based on the best interests of the child. Each state relies on several criteria to assess what is in a child's best interests. In general, though, these criteria include:

  • The physical and emotional health of the parents and the child
  • The home environments of both parents
  • Who has traditionally been the child's caretaker
  • Evidence of child abuse or neglect
  • The availability of the parents to the child
  • The parent's willingness to encourage the child's relationship with the other parent
  • The child's preference if the child is old enough to make such a decision

2. There Are Two Types of Child Custody.

There are two types of child custody: Legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody allows the parent to make important decisions regarding the child's upbringing such as choices about education and healthcare.

Physical custody refers to with whom the child lives.

3. A Judge Can Award Custody to One or Both Parents.

Depending on the circumstances, a judge may choose to award custody to one or both parents. When custody is awarded to one parent, it is known as sole custody. When it is awarded to both parents, it is known as joint custody. Both legal and physical custody can be awarded to one or both parents.

4. Courts Usually Encourage Mediation.

Child custody courts usually encourage parents to come to a custody agreement on their own outside of court. To help facilitate this process, courts will often recommend, and sometimes require, that parents take part in mediation. Mediation allows both parents to sit before a neutral third-party mediator and mutually create a parenting plan.

5. The Non-Custodial Parent Can Be Forced to Pay Child Support.

The parent who does not have custody of the child may be required to pay child support. Child support consists of payments made to the custodial parent to help pay for the child's expenses, including:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Health insurance and medical care

Different states use different methods of calculating child support. If you would like to know more about how child support is calculated in your state, contact a child support lawyer near you.