Children and the Law
Child Support

Does the mother have custody when the child lives with her and the father pays child support?


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Generally, yes. However, custody is a complicated issue and is generally determined by a judge.

  • If no custody order has been issued when it pertains to a married couple the law presumes both biological parents to have equal custodial rights.
  • If the couple is unmarried the mother has full legal rights to the child until the father establishes paternity and is granted custodial or visitation rights by the court.
  • Custody orders are made part of a divorce when there are minor children of the marriage. Custody labels change depending upon the jurisdiction in which you reside. It is important to know and understand the proper custody labels and have them applied in your child custody order.

Generally there are two types of custody addressed by courts:

  • Legal Custody: Legal custody refers to making major decisions in your child's life such as medical and health related decisions, education, and welfare.
  • Physical Custody: Physical custody refers to which parent the children reside with on a day to day basis.

Sole Legal

One parent has the right to make any decisions that affect the child.

Joint Legal

Both parents have the right to be involved in decisions regarding the child.

Sole Physical

The child resides with one parent who is said to have primary physical custody. The other parent may or may not have visitation rights pursuant to a visitation schedule either issued by the court or arranged by the parents.

Joint Physical

Arrangements are designed that provide the child will spend 50% of their time with each parent. Child support is modified based on this time split and the differences between their incomes.

Generally the phrase full custody is used casually to refer to a parent with sole legal and physical custody. Sole legal custody means that the parent has the right to make all decisions that affect the child. That includes such things as where the child resides, attends school, medical treatment, etc. Joint legal custody means the parents both have an equal right to make decisions regarding the child and one must consult the other before making important decisions. Primary physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time.