Child custody basics parents should understand

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

Child custody can be one of the toughest components of a divorce for divorcing parents. For this reason, divorcing parents should be familiar with how child custody is resolved and what factors it is based on.

What is meant by child custody?

When child custody is discussed, it refers to both physical and legal custody of the child. Physical custody of the child refers to who the child lives with. Legal custody of the child refers to which parent makes important healthcare and education decisions for the child, along with directing their religious upbringing. Both types of custody can be joint or sole which means that the parents share custody and decision-making or one handles the responsibility themselves.

Child custody factors

Child custody is determined based on what is in the best interests of the child. To determine what that is, the family law court looks at a variety of factors. Child custody factors include the ability of the parents to cooperate, communicate and agree concerning the child; the fitness of the parents; the relationships and interactions between the child and its parents and siblings; the number of other children in the household and their ages; the relationship, and quality of relationship, the child had with each of its parents prior to the end of their relationship with one another; the stability of the home environment offered; the needs of the child; the wishes of the child when appropriate; the proximity of the homes of the parents to one another; the employment responsibilities of the parents; the quality and continuity of the child’s education; the willingness of the parent to take custody; and any history of abuse.

There is a lot to consider when looking at child custody which is why it is beneficial to know what is being evaluated when child custody is determined. It can help parents reach a child custody arrangement that works for the family and is best for the child.


FindLaw Network