legal custody

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Legal custody involves having a legal responsibility for a child and making major decisions regarding the child, including the child's health, education, and religious upbringing: sole legal custody vests this right with one parent, while joint legal custody vests this right with both parents. Compare: physical custody

When determining custody, courts generally consider what is in the “best interest” of the child. Factors the court may consider when determining what is in the best interest of the child include the child’s preference; the physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the child; the ability of the parent to meet those needs; the relationship between the child and the child's parents, siblings, relatives; educational opportunities; any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect in the proposed custodial household or a history of violence between the parents;  the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity; and other factors.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]