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Child Custody

Intact Families, Parents Who Live Separately, Other Custody Issues Between Parents Who Live Separately, Third-party Disputes

Child custody is the term used by most legal systems to describe the bundle of rights and responsibilities that parents have regarding their biological or adopted children under the age, usually, of eighteen. Custody includes the right to have the child live with the parents and to make decisions about the health, welfare, and lifestyle of the child.

Issues about custody arise in three distinct contexts: when government proposes to interfere with parental custody in an intact family; when parents live separately and a decision about custody must be made between them; and when third parties seek custody in preference to parents.

These custody issues arise throughout the world, and there is widespread agreement on how to treat them in the law of different legal systems, particularly countries whose legal structures are based on Western concepts. Consequently, the focus of the discussion in this entry is on the law of the United States as representative of the law internationally.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaDivorce