Most parents know what child custody means in the divorce process. However, many may not know that parental responsibilities means the same thing in our state. Since 1999, the term “child custody” was replaced by “parental responsibilities.”

However, this switch in terminology should not confuse parents as they are largely the same. Essentially, both terms refer to which spouse decides where the child lives, who makes major life decisions, like those related to health and education, and visitation.

Family court judges determine parental responsibilities. They make these determinations based on what is known as the “best interests” of the child. This standard means that the family court judge balances several factors to determine what is best for the child.

This includes many factors. These factors include both parents’ wishes, the child’s or children’s wants, the relationship between the parents, the relationship between the parents and children, and the emotional state of the child and how it will be effected by new living situations, like a new home and school.

A common myth is that parental responsibilities favor the mother. That is, family court judges consider mothers better parents, or award custody to the mother more often than not. This is only myth though – family court judges do not consider gender in their decisions, and there is no deference to the mother.

Family court may be complicated and emotionally challenging, especially when children are an issue. It can be hard to hear a judge make family decisions, which is why attaining legal help is so important. With the necessary assistance, parents can ensure their rights are protected.