Joint Custody Law & Legal Definition


There are two kinds of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Custody battles most often arise in a divorce or separation, requiring a court's determination of which parent, relative or other adult should have physical and/or legal control and responsibility for a minor (child) under 18. When both parents share custody of a child after a divorce it is called joint custody. Joint custody may be either legal or physical custody. Physical custody, designates where the child will actually live, whereas legal custody gives the custodial person(s) the right to make decisions for the child's welfare. Child custody can be decided by a local court in a divorce or if a child, relative, close friend or state agency questions whether one or both parents is unfit, absent, dead, in prison or dangerous to the child's well-being. In such cases custody can be awarded to a grandparent or other relative, a foster parent or an orphanage or other organization or institution. In some jurisdictions, if a child is old enough, their preferences are taken into consideration.

The basic consideration on custody matters is supposed to be the best interests of the child or children. Mental anguish suffered by the child due to visitation or lack thereof is one factor that may be considered in determining a child's best interest. In most cases the non-custodial parent is given visitation rights, which may include weekends, parts of vacations and other occasions. The custody order may be modifed if circumstances warrant.