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Child Custody

At Lawyer Legion we created a directory of family law attorneys focused on child custody cases. Search by state, city, or zip code. The profiles of these attorneys focused on child custody law have information on the attorney's membership and leadership in legal organizations related to family law, speaking engagements at quality CLE seminars, and participation in specialty certification programs.

Families and partners adopt children for different reasons. Adoption is the process by which an individual or family can have a legally respected and recognized family relationship with a child.

Divorce is the formal legal process to end a marriage. The rights and responsibilities for caring for the children are usually one of the critical issues which are dealt with in the context of a divorce. Child custody laws are a function of state law and vary from state to state.

Sometimes when spouses divorce, one of the spouses moves to another state. The Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) is a federal statute which has been adopted in all 50 states. The purpose of the UCCJA is to establish rules for determining which state or forum has jurisdiction over the child and the parties. Once the forum has been determined, the court can issue orders regarding all aspects of the child’s custody and care.

What do courts consider in awarding custody in a contested case?

The courts consider the age, gender and well-being of the child. The court considers lifestyle issues, household stability, the mental and physical health of each parent, behavioral patterns, education and once a child reaches a certain age, the child’s preference. The court will focus on doing what is in the best interests of the child.

What are the different types of custody?

When a divorce becomes final and there are minor children, the final divorce decree or judgment contains all of the custody decisions or agreements. One parent will be awarded primary custody and the other parent will receive liberal visitation with extend visits on holidays or over the summer break.

Each case is different and courts try to be flexible to foster the love and affection of the non-custodial parent. Child custody decisions by a court are difficult. The court must balance the rights of each parent against each parent and the needs of a child.

If the parents can work with each other, the courts can award a shared custody arrangement where the children live with one parent for a short period and then live with the other parent for a like period. Some parents may have a history of instability, drug or alcohol abuse or a history of violence.

A spouse who thinks that the other parent is dangerous or unstable can petition the court to require supervised visitation or seek to suspend visitation entirely until an investigation can confirm that the child would not be emotionally or physically harmed while in that parents care and custody. The court can enter an order modifying or suspending any custodial or visitation arrangements to advance the best interests and ensure the safety of the child are met.

Hiring a Lawyer for a Child Custody Matter

Lawyers who focus on representing parties in child custody matters are usually called matrimonial or family law lawyers. The skills typically utilized by a lawyer who focus on family law and child custody are general trial practice, the rules of evidence, insurance law and contract law.

Most family law custody disputes are resolved through a negotiated settlement or a formal mediation. Lawyers who practice in the field of family law and litigate custody issues must have strong trial and negotiating skills. Lawyers who practice in this field appear before judges and magistrates in state courts.

Specialty Certification Programs Related to Child Custody  

Many states offer board or specialty certifications in family or matrimonial law which includes disputes and representation related to child custody issues. To qualify for this certification, applicants must have dedicated a certain percentage of their practice to family and matrimonial law, have a certain number of trials in the field of family law and taken and passed an exam. In many states, peer review and professional references are required.

The purpose of the state bar standards in establishing certifications in specialties such as family or matrimonial trial law is to educate the public that certain lawyers have demonstrated an advanced proficiency and have special knowledge in the field of specific certification. Certification distinguishes the lawyer as having an advanced level of experience and expertise that has been independently validated.

Finding the Right Child Custody Attorney

When choosing an attorney for a child custody attorney, consider whether the attorney devotes a signification portion of his or her practice to that specialty area of the law. At Lawyer Legion we created our directory of family law attorneys to help the public find a qualified attorney in a variety of practice areas including child custody cases. We rank attorneys according to the focus of their legal practice, their membership and leadership in organizations related to family law, and other objective criteria.

Article updated on Friday, June 12, 2015.