When parents are separating or when one parent is leaving an abusive relationship, the parents may disagree about issues regarding their child.  When the child is under 18, one or both parents can ask the court to make decisions for them by seeking a court order for custody and visitation.  A court order can decide many things:

  • The parenting schedule, which will include details of how much time the child physically resides with each parent.  This can be referred to as parenting time or physical custody
  • How the parents make important decisions for the child, which is called legal custody

The court will always consider what is “in the best interest of the child” to make its decision.  This means that the judge will focus on what is best for the child, not what is best for either parent.  

Note: If you want to change an existing child custody or visitation order, see Changing Your Child Custody or Visitation .