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How is Child Custody Determined

Child custody, the legal term for “who gets the children,” is granted to one parent or both parents following a divorce or separation. In more than 95 percent of child custody cases, parents work out their own custody arrangements. However, in cases where parents cannot agree on who will raise the child, a court may intervene and make the decision for them.

A judge awards child custody based on what he or she believes to be in the best interest of the child. A number of factors are taken into consideration in determining this. These include the health, lifestyle, and financial situation of each parent as well as the child’s age, gender, health, current living situation, and relationship with each parent. The court may also consider statements made by older children and teenagers regarding which parent they would prefer to have custody. In cases where one parent is not clearly favorable over another based on these criteria, a premium is placed on maintaining stability in the child’s lifestyle and routine.

Types of Child Custody

The following are the main types of child custody:

  • Legal Custody - The right of a parent to make decisions about a child's upbringing
  • Physical Custody - The right of a parent to have the child live with him or her
  • Sole Custody - One parent has both legal and physical custody of a child
  • Joint Custody - Both parents share legal custody, physical custody, or both
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