Legal Custody & Physical Placement

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Legal Custody

There is a presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interest of the minor child(ren) and that the parties will make this decision. The Judge or Family Court Commissioner will determine, either by your agreement or by the courts determination through a legal hearing, which parent(s) should have legal custody of the child(ren). Legal custody of a child refers to the right to make major decisions concerning the child. "Major decisions" include, but are not limited to decisions regarding consent to marry, consent to enter the military service, consent to obtain a motor vehicle license, authorization for non-emergency health care, and choice of school and religion.

Physical Placement

Whenever a court enters a custody order, it must allocate periods of physical placement between parents. Unlike "custody" which refers to making major decisions about the child, "physical placement" refers to where a child lives or spends time. When a parent has "primary placement" of a child, that means that the child spends the majority of the time living with that parent. “Periods of placement," formerly known as visitation, refers to the periods of time the child spends with the other parent. If parties are unable to agree on the placement issue, the court will make a temporary order and the parties will be referred to mediation to hopefully resolve that issue. If mediation is not successful, then a Guardian ad Litem and a Family Court Social Worker are appointed to conduct a placement or custody study.

Personal Safety Issues

If your case involves minor children, and you have serious reason to believe that the health, safety, or liberty of you or a child would be jeopardized by the disclosure of certain identifying information both in paper and electronic records, you may request that identifying information be sealed from the public or the other party until a hearing is held. Once you have completed the forms, the court will schedule a hearing. At that hearing you will have to convince the judge that it is in the interest of justice for the information to continue to be sealed.