Child Custody

Child custody and legal guardianship are legal terms which are used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the child to make decisions , and the parent’s duty to care for the child.

In some places, courts and legal professionals are beginning to use the term parenting schedule instead of custody and visitation.  The new terminology eliminates the distinction between custodial and noncustodial parents, and also attempts to build upon the best interests of the children by crafting schedules that meet the developmental needs of the children. For example, younger children need shorter, more frequent time with parents, whereas older children and teenagers may demand less frequent shifts yet longer blocks of time with each parent.

Types of Custody

Joint

Joint physical custody involves a court order that awards custody of a child to both parties. In joint custody, both parents are custodial parents and neither parent is a non-custodial parent; in other words, the child has two custodial parents. If a child has legal residence with both parents, the parents share “joint physical custody” and each parent is said to be a “custodial parent”. Thus, in joint physical custody, neither parent is said to be a “non-custodial parent.”  In some jurisdictions the term “visitation” is no longer used in joint custody cases, but is instead used only for sole custody orders.

Many jurisdictions recognize two forms of joint custody: joint physical custody, and joint legal custody. In joint legal custody, both parents share the ability to have access to educational, health, and other records, and have equal decision-making status where the welfare of the child is concerned.

Legal

Legal custody involves the division of rights between the parents to make important life decisions relating to their minor children.[22] Such decisions may include choice of a child’s school, choice of physician, whether the child should attend therapy and with what therapist, and decisions relating to medical and orthodontic treatment.

Legal custody may be joint, in which case both parents share decision-making rights, or sole, in which case one parent is vested with the rights to make those key decisions without regard to the contrary wishes of the other parent.

Sole

Sole physical custody means that a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation. Physical custody involves the day-to-day care of a child and establishes where a child will live. A parent with physical custody has the right to have his/her child live with him/her. If a child lives with only one parent, that parent has sole physical custody and is said to be the custodial parent. The other parent is said to be the non-custodial parent, and may have visitation rights or visitation with his/her child.

Usually the parent who is believed to value child quality more than the other is the one granted sole custody, leaving the high-valuation parent with the best incentives.

Physical

Physical custody involves the day-to-day care of a child and establishes where a child will live. If a parent has physical custody of a child, that parent’s home will normally be the legal residence (domicile) of the minor child. In custody cases, the schedule for which parent provides lodging and care for the child is defined by a court-ordered custody schedule (also known as a “parenting plan” or “parenting schedule”).

Custodial Parents

A custodial parent is a parent who is given physical and/or legal custody of a child by court order.  A child-custody determination means a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child. The term includes a permanent, temporary, initial, and modification order. The term does not include an order relating to child support or other monetary obligation of an individual. Where the child will live with both parents, joint physical custody is ordered, and both parents are custodial parents. Where the child will only live with one of the parents, sole physical custody is ordered, and the parent with which the child lives is the custodial parent, the other parent is the non-custodial parent.

Non-custodial Parents

A non-custodial parent is a parent who does not have physical and/or legal custody of his/her child by court order.  A child-custody determination means a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the legal custody, physical custody, or visitation with respect to a child. The term includes a permanent, temporary, initial, and modification order. The term does not include an order relating to child support or other monetary obligation of an individual.  Where the child will only live with one of the parents, sole physical custody is ordered, and the parent with which the child lives is the custodial parent, the other parent is the noncustodial parent. Note, however, where the child will live with both parents, joint physical custody is ordered, and both parent are custodial parents.

Grandparent Visitation and Custody

Grandparent visitation is a legal right that grandparents in some jurisdictions may have to have court-ordered contact (or visitation) with their grandchildren.