Child Custody Terms Explained

Child Custody Lawyer

Going through a divorce and trying to work out custody of minor children, is a new experience for many people. There is a lot of terminology and different concepts that you’ve surely heard discussed, but maybe you don’t know what it all means. How do you make sense of all the new information you are presented with at this time, and also handle the many stresses that go along with divorce and child custody battles.

First, be sure to contact a reputable family law attorney, someone who knows the ins and outs of divorce and child custody laws and has a demonstrated history of achieving positive outcomes in child custody cases.

In the meantime, we’ve tried to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from our clients at the beginning of their child custody cases:

What is the difference between legal and physical custody? Legal custody is most often shared equally between parents. It refers to the parent’s right to decide about their child’s health care, education, religion, etc. .Rarely, in extreme cases where a parent is shown to be a danger to the child, the court will award sole legal custody.

Physical custody is where the child lives and/or spends his or her time, otherwise known as which parent has actual possession and control of a child at any given time. Sometimes physical custody is 50/50, like in situations where children go back and forth regularly between both parents’ homes. Sometimes parents will divide custody less equally, like 70/30, and in those cases, the parent with whom the child is with a larger percentage of time, is said to have physical custody, and the other parent is granted visitation.

What is joint custody? – Family court judges recognize the importance of having both parents involved as much as possible, so it’s also common for parents to share custody. When it comes to physical custody, joint custody means that the child spends a significant amount of time with each parent. The division of time doesn’t have to be exactly equal between parents, but similar.

What is sole custody? – Sole custody is when one parent is granted 100% custody either legally, physically or both. Judges rarely grant sole legal custody, and if so, only when one parent has been shown to be seriously unfit. It is common for one parent to have sole physical custody, and the other parent has designated visitation.

What does visitation mean?: Visitation is time that the non-custodial parent has with the child. In recent years, the term visitation has become less popular, as some feels it implies a lesser relationship with the child, and some now use the term parenting time instead. Parents are entitled to work out their own visitation arrangements, but more often it is advisable to have visitation decided by the courts, in order to protect your rights.

As you navigate the new waters of divorce and custody arrangements, you need a good child custody lawyer Austin, TX trusts on your side. Call a law firm today for a free consultation.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at The Law Offices of Ryan S. Dougay for their insight into family law and child custody.

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