​There are two major categories of child custody determinations:

​Legal custody
Parents are able to make many decisions for their children – what their name will be, what religion, if any, the child will practice, where the child will live, which school they will attend, whether or not they may marry before the age of 18, get medical treatment, and more.  If a parent has sole legal custody, then that parent will make all of those decisions, without having to take the wishes of the other parent into account (although it is always good form to consult first, whenever possible).  If parents share legal custody, they must confer, and find a way to agree.  Sometimes mediation is used as a method for reaching agreement.

Physical custody
A child cannot live with both parents at the same time once the parents separate.  Determining which parent’s home is the best for a child is a difficult process, and it is far from foolproof.  There are 14 factors that a court will take into account. The most important ones are:

 

–  The relationship that each parent has with the child, including the parent’s ability to assess and meet the child’s differing needs;

–  Each parent’s ability or desire to support the child’s relationship with the other parent;

–  Whether or not there is a history of family violence;

–  The parents’ ability to resolve issues relating to the child, and, everyone’s favorite

 

–  other factors that the court may deem necessary or proper. 

Visitation
To determine a visitation schedule, the court considers the same factors as for custody along with the practicalities of each parent’s work schedule, how well the parents work together, whether the child has a room in the other parent’s home.
 

In each case, the guiding principle is the “best interests” of the child.  A court can grant sole physical custody to one parent with visitation rights to the other parent, while granting joint legal custody.

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Child Custody and Visitation