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Child Custody Laws

Child Custody Laws

Child custody is one of the most difficult processes that divorcing parents go through in determining the right arrangements for the child.  The jurisdiction court steps in to help with the child custody arrangements.  Child custody laws differ from state to state or country to country but there is a general federal law that requires every state to honor and respect other state’s laws.  Generally, both parents have an equal right to the custody of their children but having separated, the court must strive to give a permanent home for the child.

The court does not favor any side of the parent but considers the very interests of the child at the same time considering the wishes of the child’s parents, the wishes of the child and the relationship the child has with each parent, the child’s comfort in the home, community and school and the physical and mental health of the parents.  

Factoring in the general law, child custody is then delivered in many forms. 

Types of child custody

1. Physical and legal custody

Physical custody means that the child will live with the custodial parent most of the time but both parents are bound by a legal custody agreement that includes the right for both of them to make decisions that affect the child like education, religion, healthcare etc.  

2. Joint custody

Joint custody means both parents get to spend equal amount of time with the child.  This arrangement lessens the feeling of loss that many noncustodial parents feel after separation.  A higher level of cooperation between both parents to convince the court to award it and also for the child’s sake is required in joint custody.   

3. Split custody

This occurs when the couple has more than one child, one parent is given custody rights of a number of the children while the other parent keeps the rest.  In most cases this will not be offered unless proved necessary because courts prefer not to separate siblings.

4. Unmarried parents

In most cases of unmarried couples, sole physical custody is awarded to the mother unless the father takes action.  In most cases the father is given priority too in the life of his child to share in decision making but only if he is interested.

Factors to consider in making the custody decisions

Custody decisions are tough to determine and the court must take into consideration a few important details. They include:

  • The main child’s primary caretaker
  • Wishes of the child – only happens if the child is old enough to make the right decisions.
  • Age and sex of the child
  • Mental and physical health of the parents
  • Parental use of excessive discipline and emotional abuse
  • Evidence of drug use in parents or sex abuse
  • Religion and cultural considerations
  • Need for continuation of a stable home environment
  • Support and interaction with other members of the extended family of both parents
  • Interrelationship with other household members
  • Adjustment to the community and the school

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