In the United States, child custody laws will vary from state to state, as it is the state courts that has jurisdiction over issues revolving around divorce and subsequent child custody situations. Therefore, it is important to check the state legislation in order to be aware as to how child custody laws are enforced in a particular state.
However, it should be noted that there are child custody laws at the federal level The Uniform Child Custody, Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act is a federal law that was implemented to update a previews child custody law, The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act of 1968.
Only Massachusetts and Vermont are not signatories of the Act, though this particular child custody law deals more issues of child custody that may span state lines and kidnapping. Even though there are various child custody laws in the United States, here are some basic concepts that may be included in the various jurisdictions.
SOLE CUSTODY – Child custody awarded by the courts to one parent because the other is considered to be unfit to care for the child as required by imposed state laws and pre-requisites. Typically speaking, a parent is ruled as unfit to care for a child in the case that there is evidence or history of alcohol or controlled substance abuse, evidence of previous child neglect or abuse, or if the parent has a new partner that has proven to be unfit. Sole custody will still allow the unfit parent visitation rights under certain provisions and circumstances decided by the courts.
PHYSICAL CUSTODY – This kind of child custody is used to describe the parent who is legally allowed to have the child live with him/her. Though the child may have visitation with the other parent, the parent with physical custody is the one that the child currently lives with.
JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY – Child custody in which the child spends a significant amount of time living with both parents. Joint physical custody is awarded in certain situations, such as both parents living in the same particular area or relatively close to each other. This allows the child to attend the same school and maintain the same relationships with friends and family members.
Join physical custody is often the preferred type of child custody when it is a viable option. The separating couple will usually decide the parameters in terms of the living arrangements and time the child is supposed to spend with each. However, if the parents cannot come to an arrangement, the courts may impose a decision they see as best for the parents and child.
LEGAL CUSTODY – Child custody that grants one parent the right to make all the decisions as to how the child is to be raised and as well as providing for the child’s overall well-being. The parent with legal custody can make decisions in regards to the child’s education, healthcare, and religious faith, all without out the requiring the permission or authority of the other parent. However, legal child custody is awarded in certain extreme circumstances.
JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY – Probably the most common type of child custody, which allows for both parents to have input in the decisions in regards to the child’s upbringing.
This allows for both parents to have an active role in raising the child and possibly create the least amount of problems for the child in terms of mental and emotional suffering. However, a violation of the provisions of joint legal custody can prompt a parent to bring the issue to the courts and request the removal of joint legal custody.