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).

Much more common than true joint custody
arrangements (where both physical and legal custody are
shared) is "joint legal custody," in which both parents
share the right to make long-term decisions about the
raising of a child and key aspects of the child's welfare,
with physical custody awarded to one parent
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