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In the matter of Child Custody, there are two types of custody to be discussed – legal custody of the child, and physical custody.
Legal Custody denotes who has the right to make the important decisions for the child. For example, healthcare, education and welfare. This can be awarded on a joint or sole basis. Joint Legal Custody means that both parents share the rights and responsibilities to make the important decisions about the health, education and welfare of the child. Sole Legal Custody is where only one parent has the legal right and responsibility to make those important decisions about the child.
Physical Custody of a child refers to who the child will live with. A Judge may award joint Physical Custody, meaning the child will live with both parents. Or sole Physical Custody can be awarded, meaning the child will live with one parent on a full time basis, and have scheduled visitation with the other, if appropriate.
Sometimes a Judge will award joint Legal Custody but not joint Physical Custody. In this instance, both parents share the responsibility for making important decisions in the child’s life, but the child will live with one parent on a full time basis. Oftentimes, the parent who does not have Physical Custody has visitation with the child.
The law on custody says that Judges must give custody according to what is in the “best interest” of a child. To determine what is in the best interests of the child the court will look at a variety of factors such as: age of the child, health of the child, emotional ties between parents and the child, ability of parents to care for the child, any history of substance abuse or domestic violence, and the child’s ties to school, home and his or her community.
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