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Child Custody and Visitation Terminology: Common Phrases You Should Know

If you have never been involved in a court case before, a child custody case can be like trying to learn a new language. There is a unique vocabulary that is used during these hearings, and not understanding these terms can put you at a serious disadvantage.

Without a solid understanding of significant terms in child custody proceedings, you may not understand what the other party is requesting and how to respond. You may miss opportunities to protect and assert your parental rights.

Some of the most common phrases encountered in child custody proceedings include:

Best Interests of the Child

Whenever a court enters an order regarding the placement of your child or visitation, the court will consider what would be in the best interests of your child. This term encompasses your child’s physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. The court determines what is in your child’s best interests after receiving evidence and testimony from various sources.

Sole Legal Custody and Joint Legal Custody

The term legal custody is used to refer to the ability to make decisions affecting the care and control of your child. This includes deciding what school your child should attend, what extracurricular activities they should participate in, and what medical care they should receive.

If you are granted sole legal custody, you will have the ability to make these decisions unilaterally — without needing to consult with the other parent. If you have joint legal custody, you and your child’s other parent are supposed to consult with one another about these issues and jointly decide how to address them.

Physical Custody and Residential Custody

The terms physical custody and residential custody are sometimes used interchangeably, although they refer to slightly different concepts. Physical custody is used to describe the person with whom your child can be presently found. If your child is residing in your home, then you have physical custody of your child.

By contrast, the term residential custody refers to the parent with whom the child primarily resides. You have residential custody of your child if the child spends the majority of their time living in your house and the other parent has scheduled visitation time. If you and the other parent cannot agree on residential custody and visitation, the court will decide these issues after considering the best interests of your child.

When to See a Michigan Child Custody Attorney

It is imperative that you understand the issues that can affect your child and your rights to parent your child. Seeking legal help as soon as possible can help you obtain timely advice and counsel about your options for visitation, residential placement, and other issues that can affect your relationship with your child.

Call Gucciardo Family Law today if you are facing a child custody dispute or anticipate a custody battle with your ex-partner. We take the time to explain the custody process to you and will fight for your rights and interests.

Too much information?

We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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