Child Custody and the Law

Despite the fact that women give birth to children and usually are expected to provide primary nurture and care, mothers have had an ambivalent relationship with child custody law. In some historical periods, custody laws have been inversely related to the biological and social ties between mothers and children. Child custody law regulates disputes about who has a) the legal authority to make decisions affecting a child's interests (usually termed legal custody, or sometimes guardianship, in North America); and b) the responsibility of taking care of the child (physical custody). Access and visitation are terms used to describe the contact between a noncustodial parent and a child. Parents may share legal custody (joint custody) and/or physical custody (shared parenting). Most parents arrive at consensual custody ...

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