Custody law is a subfield of family law that covers child custody matters. Each state may have different child custody laws, but they generally regulate matters such as:
The basic assumption of child custody law is that the interests of the child should take priority over the interests of either parent. It also assumes that the child’s interests will be best protected when the child has a good relationship with both parents, even if the parents are separated.
Child custody is the right to make major decisions concerning the child. Such decisions include non-emergency medical care, religion, and consent to join the military, among many others. Essentially, any decision that a parent has the power to make for a child rests with the parent or parents who have custody.
What Other Types of Legal Issues are Covered Through Custody Law?
Child custody law mainly deals with the question of who will be responsible for the proper upbringing of a child. In addition to the issues matters listed above, child custody law can also involve other legal issues, including:
- Establishing Child Custody and Visitation
- Modification of Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements
- Child Custody between Unmarried Parents
- Different Types of Custody Arrangements
- Child Custody Violations
What if a Child Custody Order is Violated?
Child custody laws are treated very seriously and can be enforced quite strictly. Any type of court order that involves child custody is binding under law and needs to be followed by all the parties involved. One of the main concerns it that the safety and well being of a child may be compromised if one of the parents disobeys the instructions of a custody order. Disobeying a court child custody order may result in harsh consequences:
- Non-violating parents could petition the court for enforcement of the order.
- Violating parents may need to appear in court and explain why they violated the court order.
- The court could find the violating parent in contempt of court, which could lead to jail time.
- The violating parent could also lose custody rights previously granted by the court.
Can Child Custody Rights Be Changed?
Yes, child custody rights often need to change and be modified over time as the situation changes for the child and the individual parents. For instance, child custody may move from a sole custody arrangement to a more shared custody arrangement if one parent is able to show that they have become fit to engage in more responsibilities.
Child custody rights can be lost if the parent engages in unacceptable conduct for the child or if they become incapacitated or incarcerated. The parties can also file a request to modify an existing custody order as needed.
What is Child’s Best Interests Standards in Child Custody Law?
Child custody laws vary by state, but courts will generally consider the “Child’s Best Interest Standard” when considering the custody and visitation rights of a child, which includes (but is not limited to) the following factors:
- The child’s background including age, gender, and mental and physical health;
- The child’s own preference, if they are of a certain age of maturity, usually 12-14 years or older;
- Environmental considerations such as quality of schools, community safety, and extra-curricular opportunities;
- The health and maturity of each parent;
- Each parent’s ability to provide financially and emotionally for the child;
- The degree of each parent’s willingness to encourage contact between the child and the other party;
- Whether there are any siblings or important family members involved; and/or
- Social background and lifestyle of each parent.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Custody Laws?
If you are looking to establish or modify child custody or visitation rights, it is generally wise to consult with an experienced child custody attorney. An experienced family law lawyer dealing with the complicated court system and can work to protect your relationship with the child.