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Child Custody Laws

Summary of State Custody Laws

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Are you looking for information on state child custody laws and child custody rights? Each state has specific laws to address the issue of where children will live after divorce or separation. Free information, resources, and child custody forms to help you learn about custody laws, procedures and rules are often provided at your local family courthouse. Below provides general information about child custody laws in each state.

For legal advice about child custody laws and how it may apply to your specific situation you'll need to consult a family law attorney in your jurisdiction.

For more additional state information click on the state hyperlink below.

  • Alabama Child Custody Laws - Section 30-3-150. State policy. It is the policy of Alabama to assure that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal physical custody.
  • Alaska Child Custody Laws - Child custody determinations in Alaska are determined in accordance with the overall best interest of the child. According to Sec. 25.24.150.
  • Arizona Child Custody Laws - According to 25-403 (A) The court shall determine custody, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child.
  • Arkansas Child Custody Laws - General Provisions, 9-13-101. Award of custody, "In an action for divorce, the award of custody of a child of the marriage shall be made without regard to the sex of a parent but solely in accordance with the welfare and best interest of the child.
  • California Child Custody Laws - The standard for child custody determinations in California is the overall best interest of the child with an emphasis on assuring the “health, safety, and welfare” of the child and “frequent and continuing contact” with both parents
  • Colorado Child Custody Laws - Custody may be awarded to either parent based on the best interest of the child, and shall consider all relevant factors.
  • Connecticut Child Custody Laws - In making or modifying any child custody or visitation order, the court is guided by the best interests of the child factors and also considers parties successful completion and participation in a parenting education program.
  • Delaware Child Custody Laws - The Court shall determine the legal custody and residential arrangements for a child in accordance with all relevant factors pertaining to the best interests of the child. The Court shall not presume that a parent because of his/her sex is better suited than the other to be the primary residential parent, joint or sole legal custodian.
  • Florida Child Custody Laws - As defined in Title VI, Ch, 61, §61.13 et seq., the court shall determine all matters relating to child custody of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. It is the public policy of Florida to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
  • Georgia Child Custody Laws - Defined in Georgia Code Sections 19-9-1 and 19-9-3, child custody may be awarded to either parent based on the best interest of the child or children and what will best promote their welfare and happiness.
  • Hawaii Child Custody Laws - Hawaii Revised Statutes 571-46. In awarding the custody, the court shall be guided by several standards, considerations, and procedures. Custody may be awarded to either parent or to both parents according to the best interests of the child.
  • Idaho Child Custody Laws - The court may award either joint physical custody or joint legal custody or shared custody based on the court's determination of the best interests of the child or children.
  • Illinois Child Custody Laws - The court shall determine custody in accordance with all factors related to the best interest of the child including entering an order of joint custody if the court determines that joint custody would be in the best interests of the child. Illinois Compiled Statutes 750, Chapter 5, Section: 602.
  • Indiana Child Custody Laws - The court shall determine child custody and joint legal custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child factors. There is no presumption favoring either parent. Indiana Code Title 31 - Article 17, Chapter 2-8 through 2-13.
  • Iowa Child Custody Laws - Iowa Code Section 598.41. Iowa considers awarding joint legal custody in most cases, unless there is evidence of domestic abuse. Physical custody may be awarded to either parent. The court considers several factors in considering what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the minor child.
  • Kansas Child Custody Laws - Kansas Statutes 60-16-1610. Either parent may be awarded custody. If child custody is disputed it shall than be decided by the court based on the best interests of the child factors.
  • Kentucky Child Custody Laws - The court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interests of the child and equal consideration shall be given to each parent and to any de facto custodian.
  • Louisiana Child Custody Laws - Louisiana Civil Code Articles 132 and 134. The court shall award custody to the parents jointly unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that custody to one parent would serve the best interest of the child. If the parents agree on custody the court will generally honor their agreement unless it is not in the best interest of the child.
  • Maine Child Custody Laws - Maine Revised Statutes Title 19-A, Section 1653. The court, in making an award of parental rights and responsibilities with respect to a child, shall apply the standard of the best interest of the child. In making decisions regarding the child's residence and parent-child contact, the court shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child.
  • Maryland Child Custody Laws - Maryland Code, Family Law, Sections 5-203, 9-101 and 9-103. The court may award custody of a minor child to either parent or joint custody to both parents, with neither parent being presumed to have any right to custody that is superior to the right of the other parent.
  • Massachusetts Child Custody Laws - General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 208-31. Custody may be awarded to either parent, and there shall be no presumption either in favor of or against shared legal or physical custody. If parents agree on custody the courts will generally go along with it unless it is not in the best interest of the child.
  • Michigan Child Custody Laws - Michigan Revised Statutes Section: 552.391. Joint custody is encouraged. However, in disputed child custody situation, custody placement will be determined based on best interests of the child factors.
  • Minnesota Child Custody Laws - Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.17. Joint custody or sole custody may be awarded based on relevant factors pertaining to "the best interests of the child."
  • Mississippi Child Custody Laws - Mississippi Code, Title 93, Section 93-5-24. If the parents do not mutually agree on matters concerning child custody, the Mississippi family court shall award custody based on the best interests of the child.
  • Missouri Child Custody Laws - Missouri Revised Statutes, Sections 452.375. If the parents cannot reach a mutual agreement concerning custody of the children, the court shall determine custody based on the best interests of the child factors.
  • Montana Child Custody Laws - Montana Code, Section 40, Title: 4-212. The court shall determine the parenting plan in accordance with all relevant factors outlined and pertaining to the best interest of the child.
  • Nebraska Child Custody Laws - Nebraska Statutes, Chapter 42, Section: 364. In determining custody arrangements and the time to be spent with each parent, the court shall consider factors pertaining to the best interests of the minor child. The court shall not give preference to either parent based on the sex.
  • Nevada Child Custody Laws - Nevada Revised Statutes 125.480. In determining custody of a minor child, the sole consideration of the court is the best interest of the child. If it appears to the court that joint custody would be in the best interest of the child, the court may grant custody to the parties jointly.
  • New Hampshire Child Custody Laws - New Hampshire Statutes - Chapters: 461-A:6. In determining parental rights and responsibilities, the court shall be guided by the best interests of the child factors.
  • New Jersey Child Custody Laws - New Jersey Divorce Statutes 9:2-4. In making an award of child custody, the New Jersey court may award custody to either taking into consideration several factors.
  • New Mexico Child Custody Laws - New Mexico Annotated Statutes 40-4-9, 40-4-9.1. When determining contested child custody cases, the court determines custody in accordance with the best interests of the child and consides all relevant factors.
  • New York Child Custody Laws - Chapter 14 of The Consolidated Laws Domestic Relations Laws. The court determines custody by considering several factors related to the best interest of the child.
  • North Carolina Child Custody Laws - North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 50, Section 50-13.2. In contested custody cases, custody placement is determined by the best interests of the child. In making the determination, the court shall consider all relevant factors. Joint custody to the parents shall also be considered upon the request of either parent.
  • North Dakota Child Custody Laws - North Dakota Century Code, Chapters 14-09-06.2. Custody may be awarded to either parent and is determined by the best interests and welfare of the child taking into consideration and evaluation of all related factors.
  • Ohio Child Custody Laws - Ohio Revised Code Section 3109.04. If one parent files a pleading and submits a shared parenting plan and the court finds it to be in the best interest of the children for parents to share custody, by considering relevant factors, the court can allocate the parental rights and responsibilities.
  • Oklahoma Child Custody Laws - Oklahoma Statutes; Title 43, Sections 109 and 112. The court may grant the care, custody, and control of a child to either parent or to the parents jointly.
  • Oregon Child Custody Laws - Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 107.137 and 107.169. The court may award child custody to either parent giving primary consideration to the best interests and welfare of the child in making a determination.
  • Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws - Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Title 23, Section: 5303. The court may award sole custody or shared custody when it is in the best interest of the child.
  • Rhode Island Child Custody Laws - Rhode Island Domestic Relations Law, Title 15, Section 15-5-19. Failing an agreement between the parents as to the custody of the children the court will determine custody based on the best interest of the child.
  • South Carolina Child Custody Laws - South Carolina Code of Laws Section 20-3-160 and 20-7-1515 through 20-7-1530. The court will determine custody based on several factors pertaining to the best interests of the child.
  • South Dakota Child Custody Laws - South Dakota Domestic Relations Laws - Title 25 - Chapters: 25-4-45, 25-4-45.1, 25-4-45.5, 25-4-45.6. The determination of child custody is based on the best interests of the child in respect to the child's temporal and mental and moral welfare.
  • Tennessee Child Custody Laws - Tennessee Code - Title 36, Sections 36-6-106. The court may award custody to either parent or to both parents in the case of joint custody or shared parenting based on the best interests of the child.
  • Texas Child Custody Laws - Texas Statutes, Family Code, Chapter 153. There is a presumption for joint managing conservators but the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration in determining custody.
  • Utah Child Custody Laws - Utah Code 30-3-10. The court in all cases shall consider joint custody but may award any form of child custody which is determined to be in the best interest of the child.
  • Vermont Child Custody Laws - Vermont Statutes, Title 15, Chapter 11: Subchapter 3 - Section 665. The court may order parental rights and responsibilities to be divided or shared between the parents or primarily or solely with one paretn on such terms and conditions as serve the best interests of the child.
  • Virginia Child Custody Laws - In determining custody, the court shall give primary consideration to the best interests of the child and assure the minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents when appropriate.
  • Washington Child Custody Laws - If the parents cannot reach an agreement concerning the custody and parenting provisions for children, then the court may establish either sole or mutual decision making authority and residential provisions in accordance with factors relevant to the best interst of the children.
  • West Virginia Child Custody Laws - West Virginia Code, Section 48-9-101 and 48-9-102. It is the public policy of West Virginia to assure that the best interest of children is the court's primary concern in allocating custodial and decision-making responsibilities between parents.
  • Wisconsin Child Custody Laws - Wisconsin Statutes; Section 767.41. Joint or sole legal custody or physical placement may be awarded based on the best interests of the child.
  • Wyoming Child Custody Laws - Wyoming Statutes Annotated; Title 20, Chapter 20-2-201. Custody may be awarded to either parent and may include any combination of joint, shared, or sole custody to promote the best interests of the children.

Child custody laws are often confusing and complicated. The information above should help you learn more about child custody definition, types of child custody, and child custody laws. With the right information you can be better prepared and informed as you make decisions about your case. For legal advice about child custody laws you'll need to contact a child custody lawyer in your area.

Custodial Parent & Child Custody Laws. Custodial parent is a term often used to describe the parent who has physical custody and has obtained the legal right to the physical custody of his/her child either under the provisions of a state law granting child custody or under the provisions of a court order granting custody of the child to one of its parents over the other. It is often the case where the parent who has 51% or more time is referred to as the custodial parent while the parent with 49% or less time is referred to as the non-custodial parent.

Physical Child Custody Laws. Physical child custody involves where the child lives. The determination of physical child custody is often one of the most difficult and challenging tasks of the family court. In most states the overall best interest is the standard for physical custody determinations. Historically, the court has favored mothers over the father in awarding physical custody. However, in recent times more fathers are being awarded physical custody or joint physical custody of their children.

Joint Physical Child Custody Laws. Joint physical custody would indicate that the child lives and spends a significant amount of time with each parent. A parent does not need to have 50% physical custody to have joint physical custody. In fact, 50/50 physical child custody arrangements are rarely awarded. Joint physical custody is being awarded more and more often in child custody cases and there is significant research that points to many advantages for children whose parents have joint physical custody.

Sole Physical Child Custody Laws. Sole physical custody means that the child lives primarily with one parent and visits the other parent. The parent who the child lives with primarily is said to have sole physical custody while the other parent has "visitation rights." Historically, the courts have awarded sole physical custody to mothers more often than fathers unless the father can prove the mother to be unfit.

Primary Physical Child Custody Laws. Primary physical custody is a term often used to describe a parent who has more than 50% timeshare with their child. In other words, the parent who has 51% or more time with their child may say he/she has "primary physical custody." The use of the term primary physical custody may not have any legal meaning as it is not in the family code in many states. For the legal definition of the term primary physical custody and its potential implications you'll want to consult with a local family law attorney.

Legal Child Custody Laws. Legal child custody involves decision making regarding the child's needs. Decisions related to a child's education and health care are examples of decision making rights with legal custody. It is very common for parents to be awarded joint legal custody even in cases where one parent has sole physical custody. In these cases, even though a child may live majority of the time with one parent, that parent may need to consult with the other parent before making any major educational or health related decisions.

Joint Legal Child Custody Laws. Joint legal child custody would indicate parents are both involved in any major decisions regarding the child such as education and health care. Joint legal child custody is very common among parents. One does not need to have joint physical custody in order to have joint legal custody. In fact, many parents who do not have joint physical custody (usually fathers) do have joint legal custody.

Sole Legal Child Custody Laws. Sole legal child custody would indicate that the parent with sole legal custody has the right to make all major decisions regarding their child. In other words, the parent with sole legal custody generally does not need to obtain agreement or consent from the other parent prior to making a major decision on education or health care, etc.

Sole Child Custody Laws. Sole custody is a term used to either describe a parent who has sole physical custody or sole physical and legal custody. Sole custody would indicate that the child lives primarily with the parent who has sole custody -- and possibly that that parent has all decision making rights if he/she has sole legal custody in addition to sole physical custody.

Joint Child Custody Laws. Joint custody is a term often used to describe a parent who has both joint physical custody and joint legal custody. A parent with joint physical custody often has joint legal custody as well.

Child custody laws in general can be confusing and agreements or awards pertaining to physical custody and joint legal custody can have heavy implications. In some states joint custody is common while in others it is not awarded often or at all by judges. For accurate and the most up to date child custody laws it is important to consult with a child custody lawyer in your specific area who is familiar with the laws and procedures so you are properly informed of your rights to make the best decisions possible.

Visitation is a term often used and associated with non-custodial parents. Noncustodial parents who do not have physical custody of their child but have the right to visit their child are said to have visitation rights.

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