Child Custody Presumptions

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Child Custody Presumptions

When a married couple gets divorced or legally separated, tough decisions sometimes need to be made regarding child custody. In some instances, couples are able to agree on child custody and visitation issues; however, when parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court must ultimately rule on these issues.

In this situations, if the parents can’t agree, how does the judge decide which parent gets custody? Depending which state you live in, different presumptions may apply.

1) General Presumption of Joint Custody

In 12 U.S. States, there is a general presumption favoring joint custody. Thus, even if the parents can’t agree who should get custody, the Judge should grant joint custody for both parents, unless there is a reason why joint custody should not be granted.

Currently, the 12 U.S. States with a presumption of joint custody are: Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and The District of Columbia.

2) Presumption of Joint Custody If Both Parents Agree

In 17 other U.S. States, there is a general presumption favoring joint custody only if both parents agree to it. In these states, if the parents cannot agree to joint custody, the Judge is still generally permitted to grant joint custody if he or she chooses to, but there is no presumption favoring it. Thus, if the parents can’t agree, then the ruling is left to the Judge’s discretion.

Currently, the 17 U.S. States with a presumption of joint custody only if both parents agree are: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

3) Joint Custody as an Option

Finally, in the remainder of the states, joint custody is available as an option, but there is no presumption for or against it. Rather, the decision is left up to the discretion of the judge based on the circumstances.

Still, in all states, regardless of how a judge rules on child custody, other child visitation rulings may be issued that still ensure both parents have time with their children.

Seeking Legal Help

If you are struggling to resolve a child custody issue, you should consult an experienced family lawyer.

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Last Modified: 04-23-2015 03:50 PM PDT

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