Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQ”)
on the Basics of Child Custody
Q: What is Child Custody?
A: Child custody refers to the bundle of rights and responsibilities that a parent carries in regards to their child. The term child custody can be broken down into terms that provide a greater understanding of the parental rights and obligations a separated couple has in regards to their common child.
Q: What is Child Visitation and a "Parenting Plan?"
A: The term “child visitation” refers to the time when the non-custodial parent has the right to be with the child. The custodial parent’s right to be with the child is often subject to the non-custodial parent’s right to visit with the child.
The term “parenting plan” refers to the agreement between the parents or the court order that defines provisions for custody and visitation. It determines whether one or both parents has the ability to make decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child. The parenting plan also defines when the child is to be with the non-custodial parent.
Q: What are Terms to Know When Facing a Child Custody Case?
A: Legal Custody – The parent with legal custody, can make all decisions regarding the health, welfare, and education of the child.
Physical Custody – This determines which parent has the actual, physical right to be with the child.
Sole Legal Custody – When one parent receives credit for sole legal custody, that parent will make all decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child, and the other parent has no input on these decisions.
Sole Physical Custody – When one parent receives sole physical custody, the child will remain with them. This excludes the other parent from having physical custody of the child. This typically occurs in cases of abuse or neglect.
Joint Legal Custody – This is when both parents take part in reaching decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child.
Joint Physical Custody – This is where both parents have the ability to be with the child. Joint physical custody couples with a parenting plan to determine who will be with the child at what particular time.
Shared Custody – Where both parents share the legal and physical custody of the child. This is only where both parents are able to resolve their personal differences and keep them in check for the sake of raising the child.
Q: What is the Difference Between Custodial Parent and Non-Custodial Parent?
A: The “custodial parent” is the term for the parent that has primary physical custody of a child. The child resides with the custodial parent. The “non-custodial parent” is the parent that has the child for a lesser amount of time. The child does not live with the non-custodial parent except during the time that the non-custodial parent exercises their visitation right with the child.
The child is either with the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent, but not both. This arrangement comes as a result of the separation of the parents and both parents maintaining separate residences. The child resides with the custodial parent most of the time, and the non-custodial parent spends time with the child during periods of child visitation. This way, both parents get to spend time with the child, despite having separate residences.
Q: Are There Juries in Custody Cases?
A: No. Judges are the final decision makers.