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Child Custody

Prior to the twentieth century, it was standard that the father would take sole custody of the children upon divorce. In the twentieth century, however, it became common practice to award custody of children “of tender years” to the mother. It is now most common to award custody to both parents at the same time, in an arrangement known as “joint custody,” under which custody of the children is divided into legal and physical custody, with both parents sharing responsibility for the children simultaneously. However, joint custody does not necessarily mean equal custody. Rather, it merely means custody co-exists between parents with the physical arrangements coordinated in the best interests of the children. All but six states recognize the joint custody arrangement in child custody matters. Eight states, apparently feeling the need to remove the children from the pressures of having to make difficult and emotional decisions, do not consider the wishes of the children when awarding custody. However, it is safe to say that judges will never completely ignore children’s wishes in considering custody matters, just as they will not make them bear the brunt of the responsibility for a decision when answering the objections of a parent. In the majority of states listed as not taking into account the child’s wishes, the statute also reads that the decision regarding placement of the child must be based on what is in the “best interests” of the child.

Until ten years ago, only a few states recognized a grandparent’s desire to visit his or her grandchildren as a right. Now, all except the District of Columbia recognize visitation rights of grandparents.

Inside Child Custody