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Friend of the Court

Custody Overview


Custody is established in two ways: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.

Legal custody refers to major life decisions who has the legal right to make important decisions for a child including decisions affecting the child’s health, education and welfare. Examples of legal custody include where to send the child to school or which therapist or doctor to select for the child. Legal custody can be granted to one parent (known as “sole legal custody”) or jointly to both parents (known as “joint legal custody”). If parents share joint legal custody, the parents must jointly make important decisions affecting their child’s welfare. Regardless of who has legal custody, both parents may decide all routine matters concerning the child while the child is with that parent.

Physical custody refers to the child’s living arrangements and who has the legal right to have the child reside with them. (This is not to be confused with parenting time, which refers to who has the legal right to have specific time with the child to parent the child.) Physical custody can be granted to one parent (known as “sole physical custody”) or jointly to both parents (known as “joint physical custody”). Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that the parties will have equal time with the child. The parties may agree or the Court may order a parenting time plan is in the child’s “best interests.”

Please note that Friend of the Court's Enforcement Division does not have the authority to modify custody or take enforcement action on violations of most custody provisions. The Enforcement Division may, on specific occasions, be able to send notices and conduct meetings regarding certain joint legal custody violations, but parties cannot modify custody without a hearing and Order from the Court.

Modifying a Custody Order

A party wishing to change the custody provisions in his or her Order(s) may file a custody motion with the 16th Circuit Court Clerk's Office using the following forms: a Motion for Change in Custody, along with a Request for Hearing on a Motion. If the other parent in your case filed such a Motion, you may use the Response to Motion for Change in Custody, to file a response to the Motion with the Court Clerk’s office.

Further, you may wish to utilize for beneficial information regarding custody, including the “best interest factors” which the Court considers in custody hearings.