Child Custody Law
Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage. Divorce laws seek to formalize the process as well as to help with the division of assets and property. In cases where children are involved, divorce laws may decide issues regarding child custody and child support.
Child custody law refers to the guardianship of children involved in a divorce case. Some states divide the issue of custody into two areas: physical custody and legal custody.
- Physical custody refers to where the child lives. In some cases, one parent is granted sole physical custody but the other parent has visitation rights. In other cases, both parents are given joint physical custody, meaning that the child lives with each parent half of the time (or according to an agreed upon schedule).
- Legal custody refers to decisions about the child’s lifestyle. Religious, medical, and educational decisions are made by the legal custodian or custodians. Legal custody can be granted to one parent or may be granted jointly to both parents.
According to the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, the amount paid is based on guidelines issued by each state. In general, child support guidelines use a formula that takes into consideration the amount the non-custodial parent makes and the amount required to care for the children.
Visitation refers to the rights of the parent without physical custody to spend time with the child. Visitation may occur on a court-prescribed schedule or at the convenience of both parents (sometimes called reasonable visitation), depending on the amicability of the parents’ relationship and other factors.
In cases where there is a history of abuse by the non-custodial parent, the court typically orders supervised visitation. This means that the non-custodial parent is only allowed to see the child when a court-approved adult (which cannot be the custodial parent) is present.
Visitation rights may be granted to grandparents in some cases as well. Visitation rights for grandparents are not automatic, but all states allow grandparents to file a request for visitation rights with the court. In some states, other family members and close family friends may also be granted visitation rights if the court approves them.