"Child custody arrangements" refers to the way in which child custody rights and responsibilities are distributed between the parents of the child or children. For instance, child custody can be:

  • Separate: Only one parent receives full custody
  • Joint Custody: The parents both receive custody, but in different (unequal) shares
  • Shared: The parents receive equal custody time
  • Others: Some states allow a mix of different custody arrangements, such as alternating custody

In addition, child custody can either be legal or physical. Physical custody refers to the parent who is physically caring for the child at the moment, whereas legal custody refers to the parent who has responsibility for making major decisions on behalf of the child. In many cases, a non-parent can assume legal guardianship of the child (such as an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent).

How Are Child Custody Arrangements Decided?

All child custody determinations must be made according to the child’s best interest standard. This standard considers various factors including:

  • The child’s age, gender, and physical/mental development
  • Whether the child has any special educational or physical needs
  • The child’s social background and participation in extracurricular activities
  • The degree of attachment between the child and each parent

In addition, the court will also consider factors related to each parent, such as income, educational attainment, and any previous instances of abuse/violence/substance abuse.

What If We Need to Change Child Custody Arrangements?

Child custody orders can be modified according to the needs of the child and the needs of each parent. A new or modified custody order can be obtained if there are any "major life changes" that would affect the way the child is being brought up. This can include remarriages, moving to a different residence, new jobs, loss of a job, and other factors. Such changes should be presented to the judge, who will review the information and make adjustments to the custody and visitation order.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Child Custody Arrangements?

Child custody arraignments are important matters and need to be reviewed with care. You may need to hire a child custody lawyer for help with creating a child custody arrangement that best suits the needs of the child or children who are involved. A qualified attorney will be able to discuss the different options available, and can represent you when it’s time to appear for a custody hearing.