Child custody law is a branch of family law usually handled in a family court. Custody can refer to the physical custody of housing the child, but it also includes decisions related to the childs well-being, including education, religion, medical treatment, and other personal matters. Custody is either sole, which is relegated to one parent or legal guardian or joint, in which both parents share decisions and physical custody.
Many couples that split are able to resolve custody issues on their own. However, other options are available if there are disagreements. Court-enforced orders are a possibility, as well as mediation between the parents and/or their attorneys. Visitation may also be used in place of legal custody.
Decisions made by the court take into account the childs best interests, including (but not limited to) location, education, home life, parental substance abuse, and other factors. If the child is found by the judge to be mature enough, he or she may request to live with one parent over another. If there are allegations of child abuse or neglect, the child may be kept from the accused parent until the court resolves the issue.
If the court decides on joint custody, one parent may file for exclusive custody. A court may also split siblings if it deems it in the best interest of the children. Any party found not following court orders may be found in contempt of court. In short, court rulings on family law matters can usually be changed or revisited at any time.
Family law attorneys represent one parent and fight for his or her parental rights, as well as the best interests of the child. Experienced attorneys in family law understand their states laws and get to know their clients intimately before advising.