Child Custody

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What about the children? The welfare of children is of major concern to the court. Neither parent is automatically entitled to custody. The judge looks at the best interests of the child in determining the proper parent to have custody. The judge considers many factors when deciding custody. Those factors include the age and sex of the child, compatibility with each parent and the ability of each parent to care for and nurture the child. A child over 14 years of age can request which parent they desire to reside with, but their choice is not binding. The court considers it important for a child to maintain a relationship with both parents; therefore, visitation rights are awarded to the parent who is not given legal custody of the child.

May the parents share custody? The court, in its discretion, can award joint custody instead of sole custody. There are two types of joint custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child; joint physical custody means that physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way to assure the child substantially equal time and contact with both parents. In awarding joint custody, the court may order joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both.

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