Types of Custody
There are two types of custody: physical and legal. The parent the child lives with and who makes day-to-day decisions for the child has physical custody. The parent who makes important, long-range life decisions for the child, such as matters of education, religious training, discipline, important medical decisions, etc., has legal custody.
Every state has different laws concerning the division of custody. Generally, each type of custody is granted solely to one parent, or jointly to both. Some states, depending on their individual laws, may also offer additional ways to divide physical and legal custody.
To learn more about custody laws in your state, visit WomensLaw.org and scroll down to your state.
Risks of joint custody arrangements
Even though many courts favor joint custody because it gives both parents an active role in their child’s life, these arrangements are often dangerous for battered women, as addressing a child’s needs may require continuous communication and negotiation with an abusive spouse. Confronting a spouse with disagreements about childcare issues can be challenging even in non-abusive relationships; in cases of domestic violence, the victim may fear the consequences of disagreeing with her abuser- possibly continued physical, emotional, financial abuse of her and her children. When fear prevents a victim from effectively advocating for her children’s needs, the children may suffer.
Victims and their attorneys should take steps to ensure that domestic violence is considered seriously when considering the issue of joint custody.
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