Child custody can be an overwhelming aspect of any divorce which is why it can be helpful for divorcing couples to understand the child custody process and the resources available to help through the family law system. Child custody refers to where the child lives but also to who has the authority to make important decisions for the child. As such, child custody is divided into physical and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to who the child lives with and can be sole custody for one parent with visitation for the other or joint, or shared, custody. Physical custody is what is sounds like and refers to where the child lives. In addition, legal custody can be sole custody or shared custody and refers to which parent has the authority to make decisions related to the child’s medical care, education and religion. If legal custody is shared, both parents will have the authority to make these decisions and must work together.

The family law court considers a variety of factors when determining child custody. What is in the best interests of the child is the guiding consideration in child custody situations and to determine what is in the best interests of the child the court may consider the mental and physical health of the parents; the age and sex of the child; the wishes of the child, depending on the child’s age; the need for a continuous and stable home environment; the child’s relationship and interactions with other household members; the child’s contact with and support from extended family members; any adjustment to school or community that will be necessary; religious and cultural considerations; and if there is any history of parental abuse of either the child or various substances.

The family law court may take into account any number of factors, including who the child’s primary caretaker is, for instance, when determining child custody. Because child custody can be a significant and understandable concern for many parents facing divorce, it is helpful for them to be familiar with what the process entails and to be prepared for the child custody process.