Details on State Child Custody Laws

Because of the importance of the laws regarding child custody, all fifty states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Act (UCCA). The UCCA attempts to minimize or eliminate child custody conflicts from state to state, by allowing each state to recognize and enforce custody orders made in other states. It is now most common to award custody to both parents at the same time, in an arrangement known as "joint custody," under which custody of the children is divided into legal and physical custody, with both parents sharing responsibility for the children simultaneously.

However, joint custody does not necessarily mean equal custody. Rather, it merely means custody co-exists between parents with the physical arrangements coordinated in the best interests of the children.

All but six states recognize the joint custody arrangement in child custody matters. Eight states do not consider the wishes of the children when awarding custody. In the majority of states listed as not taking into account the child's wishes, the statute also reads that the decision regarding placement of the child must be based on what is in the "best interests" of the child.

Until ten years ago, only a few states recognized a grandparent's desire to visit his or her grandchildren as a right. Now, all except the District of Columbia recognize visitation rights of grandparents.

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