Legal custody grants someone the right and responsibility to make major decisions affecting the best interests of a minor child. Some of these decisions include choices related to education, discipline, religion, residence, and medical care.
Generally, if a child’s parents are married or listed on the child’s birth certificate, they are presumed to have legal custody. However, legal custody may be lost in court during proceedings related to divorce, separation, child abuse, child neglect, etc.
Sometimes in divorce or separation proceedings the court may decide to grant joint legal custody. An order for joint legal custody grants both parents an equal right to make decisions regarding raising a minor child. However, a judge will likely only award joint custody if the parents demonstrate the ability and desire to cooperate in making child raising decisions.
Physical custody to the placement of the child (i.e. where the child will live or spend most of their time. In deciding physical custody issues, the court applies the “best interest of the child standard”. In applying the best interest standard, the court will evaluate several factors, including:
While a court may decide to award joint physical custody, it is rare. Joint physical custody occurs when a child equally splits time living with each parent. Courts are hesitant to award joint physical custody because the psychological and social impact of living in two separate communities can be stressful for a child, and therefore not usually in the child’s best interest.
There is a type of custody, called “bird’s nest custody”, where parents make sure their children maintain the same residence. The parents take turns living in the house with the children and looking after the household. However, this setup is difficult to arrange and many parents fail to agree. But, studies show that this type of custody gives the child the most stable life after a separation or divorce.
If you are looking to establish or modify child custody, it would be wise to consult with a family lawyer. Working with an experienced family lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate the complicated family court system, and represent you in custody proceedings.
Last Modified: 07-23-2018 07:08 PM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.