The following words and phrases when used in this website shall have the meanings given to them on this page unless the context clearly states otherwise. Please also understand these are generalized meanings & understanding, which may vary from State to State.
Child: Any unemancipated person under 18 years of age.
Legal custody: The legal right to make major decisions affecting the best interest of a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.
Partial custody: The right to take possession of a child away from the custodial parent for a certain period of time.
Physical custody: The actual physical possession and control of a child. The key aspect of physical custody in most child custody situations is that the child will live with the parent who has physical custody.
Shared custody: An order awarding shared legal or shared physical custody, or both, of a child in such a way as to assure the child of frequent and continuing contact with and physical access to both parents.
Sole custody: A parent has exclusive physical and legal custody rights concerning the child. Sole custody arrangements are rare, and are usually limited to situations in which one parent has been deemed unfit or incapable of having any form of responsibility over a child -- for example, due to drug addiction or evidence of child abuse. In sole custody situations, the child's other parent (also known as the "non-custodial" parent) has neither physical nor legal custody rights, but may be entitled to periods of visitation with the child (though those visits may be supervised, especially in situations involving domestic violence or child abuse).
Split custody: Another option, although much less favored, is split custody, in which one parent has custody of one or more of the parties' children, and the other parent has custody of the other(s). Courts usually prefer not to separate siblings, however, when issuing custody orders.
Visitation: The right to visit a child. The term does not include the right to remove a child from the custodial parent's control.
Action: means all proceedings for custody, partial custody or visitation, and proceedings for modification of prior orders of any court.
Home County: The county in which the child immediately preceding the time involved lived with the child's parents, a parent, or a person acting as parent, or in an institution, for at least six consecutive months, and in the case of a child less than six months old, the county in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of the child from the physical custody of the parent, institution, or person acting as parent shall not affect the six-month or other period.
Home State: The state in which the child immediately preceding the time involved lived with his parents, a parent or a person acting as parent, or in an institution, for at least six consecutive months, and, in the case of a child less than six months old, the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. Periods of temporary absence of any of the named persons are counted as part of the six-month or other period.
Hearing Officer: A lawyer employed by a judicial district shall not practice family law before a conference officer, hearing officer or permanent or standing master employed by the same judicial district.
Contestant: An institution or an individual, including a parent, who claims a right to custody or visitation rights with respect to a child
Custody determination: A court decision and court orders and instructions providing for the custody of a child, including visitation rights. The term does not include a decision relating to child support or any other monetary obligation of any person.
Custody proceeding: Includes proceedings in which a custody determination is one of several issues, such as an action for divorce or separation, and includes child neglect and dependency proceedings
Decree or Custody Decree: A custody determination contained in a judicial decree or order made in a custody proceeding, and includes an initial decree and a modification decree.
Initial decree: The first custody decree concerning a particular child.
Modification decree: A custody decree which modifies or replaces a prior decree, whether made by the court which rendered the prior decree or by another court.
Person acting as parent: A person, including an institution other than a parent, who has physical custody of a child and who has either been awarded custody by a court or claims a right to custody
Unmarried Parents: When the child's parents are unmarried, the statutes of most states require that the mother be awarded sole physical custody unless the father takes action to be awarded custody. An unwed father often cannot win custody over a mother who is a good parent, but he will usually take priority over other relatives, foster parents, or prospective adoptive parents.