Family Court Actions

Child Custody and Parenting Time

There are two aspects of custody which must be determined for any family going through a separation with children: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the authority to make decisions about the child’s care, including education and medical decisions. Physical custody refers to which parent has physical or residential custody of the child and when. The division of physical custody is sometimes referred to as “Parenting Time.”

Parties can enter into a variety of custodial arrangements to meet the needs of the their children and themselves.

Two such possibilities for legal custody are sole legal custody to one parent or joint custody. Sole custody means that one parent has the authority to make decisions about the child. The non-custodial parent may have the right to receive medical or education information, but he/she does not make the decisions. Joint custody means that two parents (and sometimes other caregivers) share the authority to make decisions about the child. With joint custody, the parents must communicate well enough to keep each other informed of the child’s needs and to make decisions together.

Parenting time can be divided in a variety of ways: equally 50/50, primary physical custody to one parent with alternate weekends to another, sole physical custody to one parent, or any other combination which works for the parents and children.

There are many factors a court would consider in fashioning a custody determination, but ultimately the court must make a decision based on what is in the child’s best interest.