Child custody | Visitation

Child Custody

What is Child Custody?

Child Custody and Guardianship are the legal terms used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and child including e.g. the right of the parent to make decisions for the child and the duty to care for it; it comes into question in proceedings involving dissolution of marriage annulment and other legal proceedings where the residence and care of children are concerned. In most jurisdictions child custody is determined by the best interests of the child standard.


In many proceedings to dissolve a marriage issues relating to child custody generate the most acrimonious disputes. It is not uncommon for one parent to accuse the other of trying to turn the child(ren) against him or her or of disrupting the parent’s communication with the child(ren). In extreme cases parents have taken children out of the jurisdiction in violation of court orders so as to frustrate the other parent’s custody or visitation rights.

Legal Custody

Legal Custody” gives a parent the right to make long-term decisions about the raising of a child and key aspects of the child’s welfare — including the child’s education medical care dental care and religious instruction. In most child custody cases legal custody is awarded to both parents (called “joint legal custody”) unless it is shown that one parent is somehow unfit or is incapable of making decisions about the child’s upbringing. Legal custody is different from “physical custody” which involves issues such as where the child will live.

Joint Custody

In child custody situations “joint custody” usually refers to one of two possible scenarios: joint legal and physical custody or joint legal custody.

In true “Joint Custody” arrangements parents share equal “legal custody” and “physical custody” rights. This means that parents participate equally in making decisions about the child’s upbringing and welfare and split time evenly in having day-to-day care and responsibility for the child — including the parent’s right to have the child live with them. True joint custody arrangements are rare because of their potential to cause both personal difficulties (stress disruption of child’s routine) and practical problems (scheduling costs of maintaining two permanent living spaces for the child).