custody (of a child)

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Custody determines who lives with, cares for, and can make important decisions about a minor child. While such arrangements can be informally agreed upon by the parents, in family law the question generally arises following the separation or divorce of the child’s parents, though non-parent parties might also seek custody. There are two prongs of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody pertains to which parent the child lives with while legal custody pertains to who can make decisions about the child’s health, wellness, and upbringing. Parents might share one or both responsibilities in joint custody arrangements. Other arrangements provide for one custodial parent living with the child all or most of the time with the noncustodial parent having visitation rights. However, noncustodial parents might still share legal custody, and would thus need to be consulted on important matters about their child regardless of who the child lives with.

[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team