Child Custody and Support

A court may make a determination of child custody based on an assessment of the child’s situation.

Parents who do not live with and directly care for their children must help pay for their care and support.

A child custody or support order may be changed if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

Sometimes a court is needed to enforce the terms of a child custody or support order.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is child custody decided?
    The court makes a determination based on what is best for the child, which usually involves the presumption that frequent contact with both parents should continue following the divorce.
  • What’s the difference between physical custody and legal custody?
    Physical custody refers to where the child lives, whereas legal custody involves the right to make decisions that affect the child, such as educational decisions, religious decisions, and medical treatment decisions.
  • Can I move to another state with my child?
    Some final judgments in divorce proceedings forbid or restrict a parent from taking the child out of state, as doing so can affect visitation and custody rights of the other parent.
  • Can I request a paternity test for my child?
    If parentage has not been established, parents can typically ask for a paternity test to find out whether the person assumed to be the father of the child is in fact the child's biological father.
  • What is a parenting plan?
    A parenting plan describes the custody and visitation schedule of the parents. It also prescribes who makes key decisions involving the child, such as those involving education, religion, and medical treatment.
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Popular Topics

  • Joint vs. Sole Custody
    Parents usually receive joint custody, which allows each of them to play a role in the child's life and spend time with the child, unless there is a specific reason to give one parent sole custody.
  • How to Calculate Child Support
    States have child support guidelines to ensure that a child receives proper support, but courts sometimes can deviate from the guidelines if needed.
  • Grandparent Visitation and Custody
    Although a minor's grandparent may file a petition with the court for full care and custody, courts usually prefer that children live with their parents and grant such petitions only in very limited circumstances.
  • Child Custody Mediation
    Mediation may offer more cost-effective alternative for parents seeking to resolve child custody issues outside of the courtroom. During a mediation, a neutral mediator will help the parents facilitate a discussion of the issues, and help them come to an agreement if possible.
  • Fathers’ Rights
    The father of a child can establish paternity and get custody rights even if he is not married to the child's mother.
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