What is custody?

Custody means having responsibility for the day-to-day care of a child or children under the age of 18.

Custody can become an issue where a child's welfare needs to be legally decided upon. This often follows the judicial separation, divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership or cohabiting arrangements of the child's parents.

There are two categories of custody:

  • Sole Custody is where one parent or person appointed by the court is responsible for the child's day-to-day care.
  • Joint Custody is where both parents or two people appointed by the court are responsible for the child's day-to-day care. If joint custody is not to be shared equally, agreements or decisions can be made about who will be the primary carer of the child. The primary carer is the person who has most parenting time with the child.

Custody should not be confused with guardianship which is the legal responsibility of a person to perform duties regarding a child's upbringing and welfare. Nor should it be confused with access which is the legal right of a child and an adult to have contact with one another if they do not live together.