What Does Full Custody Mean?

By Beverly Bird

The definition of full custody depends to some extent on where you live and your state's legal jargon. It may mean that you'll have both legal and physical custody. But in some states, it means that you have either sole legal or sole physical custody. If you're not sure what you want to ask the court for as part of your divorce, consult with a local lawyer to make sure you get the terms right for your jurisdiction.

The definition of full custody depends to some extent on where you live and your state's legal jargon. It may mean that you'll have both legal and physical custody. But in some states, it means that you have either sole legal or sole physical custody. If you're not sure what you want to ask the court for as part of your divorce, consult with a local lawyer to make sure you get the terms right for your jurisdiction.

Legal Custody

If you're granted full legal custody, this means you'll have an absolute right to make all important decisions for your children without any input from your spouse. Major decisions relate to things like education, religion or medical care. They don't include day-to-day issues, such as whether your dieting teenager can skip dinner – that falls to the parent she's residing with on that particular day. In some states, the term "full custody" refers only to legal custody. It does not take into consideration which parent your children live with most of the time.

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Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to which parent has the children staying at her home most nights of the year. If you receive full physical custody, your spouse may have visitation, or in extreme circumstances – such as if he is incarcerated or his whereabouts are unknown – he may have no contact with your children at all. In some states, such as Missouri, if your spouse has any visitation or parenting time, you have joint physical custody. In other states, having joint physical custody usually means that your children spend roughly an equal number of overnights with each of you.

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Sole Custody Vs. Joint Legal Custody

References

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Child Custody & Visitation Laws for Missouri

Missouri law favors joint custody of children when parents separate, so that children have "frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents." State law encourages parents to cooperate with each other in raising their children and requires divorcing parents to create a parenting plan as a part of their divorce. If the court determines the best interests of the children are not served by being with the parents, third party custody can be ordered, which might mean, for example, placing the children with grandparents.

Texas Law on Child Custody Rights

When you’re facing divorce and have children, a logical concern is how this change will affect your rights with regard to parenting. If you live in Texas, the answer is not much, particularly if you and your spouse can agree to a parenting plan on your own. Even if the court gets involved because you cannot agree, Texas divorce law works on the presumption that both parents should play active roles in their children's lives.

The Basics of Full Custody in Michigan

All states base custody decisions on the best interest of the child, but Michigan has gone a step further. It does not leave the definition of “best interest” entirely to the interpretation of a single judge. Michigan’s state code includes the Child Custody Act, which specifies criteria which a judge must consider. Michigan courts generally will not award full custody to a parent unless she meets most, if not all, of these criteria. The state prefers that parents share joint custody whenever possible.

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