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Top Ten Child Custody Issues in the United States

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Top Ten Child Custody Issues in the United States

Below are the Top 10 Child Custody Issues in the United States:

1. Which Parent Has the Right to Sole Custody Without a Court Order?

Under most circumstances, parents have equal rights to custody of their children.

2. What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean?

Courts make child custody decisions based on what they consider to be in the best interest of the child. While there is no absolute standard, some common factors judges look at include:

  • child’s age
  • child’s emotional and physical health and development
  • evidence of abuse or domestic violence

3. How Much Weight Should a Court a Give to a Child’s Custody Preference?

Judges give more weight to preferences of older teenagers than to those of young children, but they are not bound by them.

4. What Rights Does Legal Custody and Physical Custody Give to a Parent?

Legal custody gives a parent the right to make all decisions on behalf of the child including:

  • health and medical care and treatment
  • education
  • religion
  • discipline

Physical custody gives a parent the right to have the child reside with her. Note: a parent with physical custody does not have the right to make decisions on behalf of the child if legal custody was awarded to the other parent.

5. Does Joint Custody Work?

A parent awarded sole custody by a court has physical and legal custody of the child. The custodial parent’s rights are usually subject to the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.

Joint custody, or shared legal custody, is where the parents divide legal and physical custody between them. These arrangements are difficult because they require a great deal of cooperation between the parents.

6. What is the Impact of Third Parties on Child Custody Issues?


Courts consider the home environment when deciding if a custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest. A parent’s personal life may influence a judge if it is emotionally or physically harmful to the child.

7. Can the Custodial Parent Move to Another State With the Child?

A parent who has sole custody of a child cannot move to another state if doing so will interfere with the rights of the non-custodial parent. Moving without first obtaining the approval of the court could jeopardize the parent’s custody rights.

8. What Happens if the Custodial Parent Dies?

State laws favor awarding custody to a parent over a nonparent. If the custodial parent dies, the noncustodial parent must apply to the court for a modification of the original order that awarded custody to the deceased parent.

9. Can a Grandparent Win Custody From the Grandchild's Parent?

The laws in each state are different, but courts usually give preference in custody cases to a parent over a grandparent.

10. Do I Need a Lawyer for Child Custody?

Cases involving custody rights are emotionally stressful and involve complex legal issues. Consulting an experienced child custody attorney as soon as you are aware of a child custody issue is the best way to protect your rights and those of your children.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-02-2018 01:28 AM PDT

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