The Court Determines Child Custody

By: David Chandler

A child custody proceeding is any case involving child protection, adoption, guardianship, termination of parental rights or voluntary placement of your child.

The support order will be based on the child's needs, obligor's ability to pay, custody arrangements and the child support guidelines. The Criminal Code makes it an offence to abduct a child to spite a custody order. A custody order establishes both the custody and parenting time arrangement for the children. Your child custody order is also confidential.

When an unmarried mother has a child, the mother has legal custody of that child until a court says otherwise.

During divorce, marriage, or annulment proceedings, the issue of child custody often becomes a matter for the court to determine. The Court must consider the following factors in every child custody decision under the law regarding the best interest of the child. The court retains the power to alter the custody arrangements until the child turns 18 or is emancipated.

You may contest custody, child support, and alimony and property division by appearing in court and filing appropriate legal papers. At the hearing, the court shall hear evidence to determine whether the child custody and support determination should be modified. The fact that one parent has been the child's primary caretaker is often considered but is not enough to guarantee a custody award. It is not that unusual for middle class parents to spend $60,000 on a divorce and child custody fight. Traditionally, divorce in the United States results in one parent being awarded primary custody and decision making for a child.


Each parent shares the rights and responsibility for the care, custody, companionship, and support of their children. Some states, such as Arizona, have fathers rights groups specifically dedicated to helping fathers obtain custody of their children.


Custody means that a parent has legal custodial rights and responsibilities toward the child.

Joint child custody means that both parents have the legal custodial rights and responsibilities toward a child. Joint custody allows both parents to have a say in the child's upbringing. There is no evidence to support that a presumption of joint custody is in the best interests of children. A study found that only when parents were still actively fighting did joint custody exacerbate children's feelings of being torn between parents. However, when both parents favor joint custody, it can be a good solution for the children. Some parents have chosen a joint-custody arrangement in which the child spends an approximately equal amount of time with both parents. Some states award joint custody in which the judge simply divides the child's time between the parents. Joint custody does not mean simply alternating where the child lives from time to time. In fact, there may be legal joint custody, but the child may live with only one parent.

Legal child custody includes the right to make decisions about the child's education, religion, health care, and other important concerns. A child may be placed in foster care while a custody case is pending. Legal custody means the right to determine the child's upbringing, including education, health care, and religious training.

Physical custody and residence means the routine daily care and control and where the child lives. Physical child custody is awarded to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time. In most cases, both parents continue to share legal child custody but one parent gains physical child custody. There is also a presumption that it is in the child's best interest to be in the custody of a parent over a non-parent.

Visitation rights allow the non-custodial parent (the person without child custody) time to spend with their child. A common arrangement is that one parent gets custody of the child and the other parent is given visitation rights.


A child custody evaluation is a report written by a neutral professional about you, the other parent, and your children. It is usually not necessary that formal psychological tests be administered to each parent in the context of a child-custody evaluation. The primary purpose and focus of the custody and/or visitation evaluation is to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Comprehensive child custody evaluations generally require an evaluation of all parents/guardians and children, as well as observations of interactions between them. The children are also evaluated in a custody/visitation evaluation.


Because of the complexity of child custody matters and the importance of the outcome, it may be advisable to contact an attorney. The attorney should know several child custody evaluators or guardian ad litems that they have worked with successfully. If you proceed with a child custody action without an attorney, you are acting as your own attorney.

In a child custody dispute, there are rarely winners, frequently everyone is a loser, and the biggest losers are often the children. When women fear losing custody of children the stress can be overwhelming. However, in many cases, women are favored as holding custody of their children.

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For more information about child custody, visit Child Custody

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