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Determining Child Custody

Determining Child Custody

Determining Child Custody: A Comprehensive Overview


Child custody is one of the most challenging issues that arise when parents separate or divorce. It involves determining the best interests of the child or children and making decisions about where they will live and who will be responsible for making important decisions about their upbringing.

Determining child custody can be a highly emotional and contentious process, and it is essential to have a clear understanding of the legal process and the factors that a court will consider when making decisions related to child custody.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of child custody, including the different types of custody, the factors that are considered when determining custody, and the legal options available to parents going through the custody process.

Types of Child Custody

There are two types of child custody – legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions about a child’s upbringing, including decisions related to education, religion, and medical care. In most cases, parents are awarded joint legal custody, meaning they will have an equal say in important decisions about their child’s life.

Physical custody refers to where the child will live on a day-to-day basis. In some cases, parents may be awarded joint physical custody, meaning the child will spend an equal amount of time with each parent. In other cases, one parent may be awarded sole physical custody, and the other parent will be awarded visitation rights.

Factors Considered in Determining Child Custody

When determining child custody, the court will consider several factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. These factors are intended to ensure that the child’s needs are met, and that the custody arrangement is fair and equitable for both parents.

Some of the factors that a court may consider when determining child custody include:

1. The age and health of the child;
2. The child’s relationship with each parent;
3. The parental ability to provide for the child’s emotional and physical needs;
4. The child’s wishes (depending on age and maturity);
5. The location of each parent’s residence;
6. The mental and physical health of each parent; and
7. Any history of domestic violence or abuse.

It is important to note that the court will always prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. Therefore, the parents’ wants and needs may not be the determining factor in custody cases.

Legal Options Available to Parents During the Custody Process

Parents going through the child custody process have several legal options available to them, including:

1. Mediation: Mediation is a dispute resolution process where a neutral third party will assist both parents in reaching a custody agreement. Mediation is often a faster, less expensive, and less adversarial option compared to going to court.

2. Collaborative Law: Collaborative law is similar to mediation, but both parties will have their own legal representation. The parties will work together with their lawyers to reach a custody agreement, and both parties agree to negotiate in good faith.

3. Litigation: If the parents are unable to reach an agreement on custody through mediation or collaborative law, they may need to go to court. In court, a judge will hear evidence and make a final determination on custody.

It is important to note that going to court can be a lengthy, expensive, and emotionally draining process. It is always helpful to seek legal advice before making any critical decisions about the custody process.

Modifying Custody Arrangements

After a custody order is put into place, it is sometimes necessary to modify the order. This may be due to a significant change in circumstances that occurred since the original order was put in place, such as a parent moving to a new location or a change in employment.

To modify a custody arrangement, a parent must file a petition with the court and request a modification. The petition should explain the reasons why a modification is necessary and provide evidence to support the request.

It is important to note that the court will always prioritize the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody modifications.


Determining child custody can be a complicated and emotional process, but it is essential to have a clear understanding of the legal process and the factors that are considered when determining custody. Parents have several legal options available to them, including mediation, collaborative law, and litigation. It is always helpful to work with a legal professional who has experience in family law to ensure that you have the support and guidance needed to navigate the custody process.

Determining child custody is one of the major roles of family law courts. Family law custody is normally significant only in instances in which there are two parents, whom each want custody of the child in question.

When one parent does not want custody of the child, while the other does want custody, then the issue of family law child custody can usually be settled out of court. Indeed, in many divorce agreements made out of court, and simply ratified by the court, family law custody is determined as the parents see fit. If no such agreement can be made, however, then the determination of family law child custody will usually fall to the court.

In determining which parent should be awarded with family law custody, the court will primarily be focused upon the issue of the child’s best interests. The court will attempt to determine with which parent the child will be best off, and will award family law child custody accordingly. This is not an easy determination, of course, and the court may very well default to determining family law custody based on which parent was the primary caretaker of the child.

The primary caretaker is usually the parent that interacted with the children most often in a care-taking role. For example, the primary caretaker would likely be the parent that spent the most time dressing the child, preparing meals for and feeding the child, arranging doctors’ appointments for the child, and teaching child to read or write.

The primary caretaker is often, by default, the party with whom the child will be better off, due to the psychological bond that can grow between a child and the primary caretaker parent. Thus, the court will likely award family law child custody to the primary caretaker in instances when it cannot use other criteria to make a determination.

The court may also become involved in determining family law custody in situations in which the parents were not married, but the father wants custody of the children. Normally, if the parents were not married, than the unwed father does not have many rights at all to the children. Such a father would not be very likely to win family law child custody from a court if the mother is a good mother.

In order to win family law custody, an unwed father would likely┬áneed to prove that the mother is not a good mother, whether because she is incapable of taking care of the child in some fashion, or because she neglects the child. Such a proceeding might give an unwed father some rights to the child, such that he might have a say in the child’s future, even if he did not win full family law child custody.

The family law child custody awarded by courts does not need to be wholly for one parent or the other. The court might award legal custody, while not awarding physical custody, for instance, such that the parent awarded legal custody can make decisions for the child, even if he or she does not physically have custody of the child. The court may award family law custody in the form of sole custody, however, giving only a single parent full custody of the child. If you need legal advice and assistance, contact family lawyers.