Child Custody FAQ

Does custody always go to just one parent?

No. Courts frequently award at least partial custody to both parents, called "joint custody." Joint custody takes one of three forms:

  • joint physical custody (children spend a¬†substantial amount of time with each parent)
  • joint legal custody (parents share decision-making on medical, educational, and religious questions involving the children), or
  • both joint legal and joint physical custody.

In some states, including New Mexico and New Hampshire, courts are required to award joint custody, except where the children's best interests -- or a parent's health or safety -- would be compromised. Many other states expressly allow courts to order joint custody, even if one parent objects to such an arrangement. For more information, see Types of Child Custody.

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