Child Custody Types, Laws & Parental Rights

When a child's parents are legally separated by divorce, they must make a decision about child custody. And the childcare process can be more complicated than you think.

Pew Research found that only 46% of children 18 and younger live with two same-sex married parents who have never divorced. In contrast, 34% live with an unmarried parent, and 15% live with two newly remarried parents.

This article clearly explains about

1. What child custody means

2. How child custody arrangements works

3. How to make child custody decisions when parents split up.

What is Child Custody Law

What Is Child Custody?

Child custody refers to the parent who has authority over decisions regarding the children and who the children spend time with.

There are actually two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. When parents separate, it is important to determine who has both custody.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

Physical care refers to where children spend their time and which parent(s) care for them.

But legal custody refers to a parent who has the legal authority to make important decisions on behalf of the child. For example, the parent(s) with legal guardianship may decide to:

Where the child goes to school

What religious background does the child have

What treatment does the child receive

Physical and legal custody of children must be agreed upon when a couple separates or divorces.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

Judicial or extrajudicial custody may be determined, depending on whether the parents are able to agree on physical and legal custody.

Parenting Plan

Ideally, parents plan parenting together when they are apart. This policy outlines who has physical custody, who has legal custody, and how the custody arrangement will work.

Often parents are best suited to make this plan for their family because they have a strong knowledge of schedules, child care arrangements, and child preferences that affect where a child should spend time

If the parents have a parenting plan, it can be part of the divorce process, if the marriage is ended. Once both parties have agreed to it in court, it will be legally enforceable. Not only is it better for the child in most cases for the parents to make this kind of plan themselves, but it can be quicker and less controversial and cheaper for the parents to agree to it themselves.


Sometimes parents can’t plan on their own how to share custody. In that case, mediation or court-ordered mediation may be required.

A mediator is a trained professional who helps couples communicate and agreeing between the parents for child custody. A mediator liaises with parents (who usually charge an hourly fee for this service) to help develop a parenting plan that will work best for them and their children.

Parents can still be represented by a family law attorney as they go through the mediation process in an effort to determine custody. The main aim of the mediation by trained professional to facilitate the discussion necessary for parents to find a solution.

Custody Evaluations

If the parents disagree about custody, a child custody evaluation may be necessary.

In this process, a trained psychiatrist evaluates the children and their co-parents to make recommendations on how custody should be shared Assessment helps the court make decisions about custody when parents cannot itself be accepted. It can also help parents by the psychiatrist come to a settlement once they see the suggestions.

Best Interest of the Child

When a court is asked to decide child custody issues, it will do so using the best interests of the child standard. In other words, the primary goal of the court is not to do what the parents want but what is best for the children involved

Courts may consider many factors in determining the best interests of a child e.g.

Recommendations by a psychiatrist after an assessment of foster children

The child wants if they have an idea at their age

Who has been the primary caregiver of the child (if either parent).

Each parent’s ability to provide a stable and loving home

Does the child have special needs

The child is emotionally related to parents, siblings and other household members

Parental capacity to provide connections with extended family members and support networks

Psychological and physical needs of the child

Domestic violence in the home

Specifics vary from country to country. Courts do not discriminate against a particular gender of parents (such as denying the mother access to guardianship). Instead, the goal is to look at the big picture and look at the plan that will best keep the child stable and safe ahead. And, often, this means keeping the parents in the child’s life.

Types of Custody Arrangements

There are several parenting arrangements that the parents can agree to or the court can order considering the best interests of the child. These include joint custody, primary custody with visitation rights and sole custody.

Joint Custody

Joint custody means that the parents share responsibility for the child. The child splits time between the two homes, such as one week with one parent and the next week with the other.

When a court grants joint physical custody, it often–but not always–grants joint legal custody as well. This means that parents make joint decisions about their children even if they divorce or separate.

Primary Custody with Visitation Rights

In some cases, one parent is given special custody, but the other parent is given visitation rights on a specific schedule. For example, the child could live with one parent full-time and see the other parent every weekend or during school holidays.

If a parent is awarded primary physical custody, that parent may also be awarded legal custody. However, this is not always the case, and it is possible that the parents will still have joint legal guardians and will have to make joint decisions.

Sole Custody

Sole custody means that one parent is given physical custody of the child, and the other is given unlimited or no custody. In some extreme cases, such as when there has been abuse or neglect, the court may even terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial parent.

Generally, if parents have sole physical custody, they will also be legally allowed to be alone and be able to make independent decisions about their child.

How Do Visitation Rights Work?

When one parent is assigned a primary caregiver, and the other is given visitation or supervision time, there are ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the visitation.

Unsupervised Visits

If there is no risk to the child spending time with the other parent, unsupervised visitation is possible. The parents generally hand the child over (or hand over to their designated representative) and the parent with visitation rights is free to do whatever he or she wants with the child until the visitation period ends.

Supervised Visits

Supervised visitation may be ordered if the child may be in danger of spending time alone with the non-custodial parent. For example, if there has been domestic violence, abuse or neglect, the court may place the abusive or neglectful parent on supervised visitation only.

These visits can often take place at certain times and places and should be supervised by a counselor or social worker or a specific person, although a friend or family member can be chosen.

Virtual Visits

Virtual visits are arranged events in which the non-child parent observes the child through a zoom or other virtual meeting or talks to the child on the telephone. Such visits often occur when the parents live in different locations.

Custody and Paternity

When a couple gives birth or adopts a child, the parents are presumed to be the legal parents of the child. If the couple decides to divorce, the parents can get custody or they can share it.

However, when a child is born to unmarried parents, things can get more complicated. One parent may need to establish paternity or adopt a child in order to be recognized as a legal parent.

Grandparent Rights

In some states, grandparents have the right to visit with their grandchildren–at least under limited circumstances.

Generally, grandparents cannot file for grandparent rights if the grandchild’s parents are married. However, visitation may be requested in certain circumstances under state law. This may include the following situations.

When a stepparent adopts a grandchild

When the granddaughter does not live with the parents

When either parent meets with the grandparents and requests a visit

Grandparents can also petition for custody in limited circumstances, such as when parents are deemed unfit or when a child abuses alcohol or drugs at home. However, laws vary greatly from state to state in the United States, so it is better to consult with an attorney or lawyer who specializes in grandparent rights.

Modification of Child Custody

When custody arrangements are made, they are not always set in stone. Courts are generally reluctant to modify contracts but will take action to modify child custody if there is a significant change in circumstances or if the modification would be in the best interests of the child

Some examples of where it would be appropriate to change the child protection system are.

Both parents need to be transferred

Even parents don’t follow guardianship rules

The child’s needs have changed

Parental circumstances have changed, such as a parent who is sober and able to provide a stable environment or a parent who is unable to maintain custody due to incarceration

The parent who wants the change must file a petition with the court requesting a change in the custody arrangement and needs proof that the change is in the best interest of the child.

Getting Legal Help With Child Custody

Child custody can be one of the most difficult issues when a couple separates or divorces. A family law attorney or lawyer helps you by providing in understanding your child custody rights. A family law attorney or lawyer also helps you in the court process to help increase your chances of obtaining the custody arrangement you desire.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does child custody work?

Child custody refers to both physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the division of a child’s time between parents while legal custody refers to the child’s decision-making rights. In most cases, parents must share custody, but that is not always possible in cases of abuse, neglect or when one parent is unable to care for the child.

What are some common child custody arrangements?

There are three common arrangements for child care. When parents raise their children together, they share time with their children. In primary custody, one parent has the majority of the child’s time and the other cares for the child when visitation is scheduled. And that one parent has sole custody of the child at all times (except for occasional limited visits).

How do I get full custody?

In order to obtain full custody, you must prove that sharing time with the child would not be in the best interests of the child. Often, this involves proving that the other parent is unfit to parent–either because they are unable to provide a stable home environment or because they have been abusive or neglectful.

What Is Salary Of The Child Custody Lawyer?

Child custody attorney salaries vary widely based on factors such as experience, location, and complexity of cases. The average child custody attorney in the United States earns between $50,000 and $150,000 a year. Entry-level positions typically range from $50,000 to $70,000 annually, while experienced attorneys in large cities can earn upwards of $100,000 to $150,000 or more for high-end or property-related cases a necessity that imposes even higher rates It can be done. In addition, lawyers in private practice or specialized firms tend to earn more when compared to lawyers in public service.