Child Custody Rules

Where can I find the laws pertaining to the custody rules in my state?

The laws that govern child custody and visitation are set by the states, so there is a wide variety of official rules may that govern your case. Each state custody guidelines are different, and it's important to find out what the laws are in your state.

You can usually find the laws pertaining to custody and visitation by reading your state's statutes or "code". Sometimes the law can be overwhelming and hard to decipher, so you can use the search box on the Custody X Change website to find some specific information about the custody laws where you live.

Regardless of where you live, there are some good, general rules that apply to custody no matter where you live. These are the principles that can guide you as you figure out how to work with the other parent, how to create a parenting plan, how to get ready for court, etc.

The most important rule though, and the one that can help you get through any custody case, is to be prepared.

That's why you need Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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How can Custody X Change help me prepare for my custody case?

The software was designed to help you make your custody plan and visitation schedule. With Custody X Change, you can:

  • Set up a custody and visitation schedule that includes a repeating cycle of custody, holidays, vacation time, and special events
  • View the custody schedule as a calendar and see as many years in advance as you want
  • Use the time-share percentage report to see exactly how much time each parent has with the kids
  • Use the time share percentage report to help you figure out child support payments
  • Create a comprehensive parenting plan
  • Select from a variety of parenting provisions to add to your custody agreement
  • Add any rules that you want both parents to abide by in raising the child to the plan
  • Keep a journal to keep track of what happens during parenting time

All of this prints out into professional documents that include a written report of the custody and visitation schedule (along with the calendar) that include the reports about the holiday schedule and vacation time, the parenting provisions, and time-share and overnight percentage reports.

The documents are easy to read and will provide the other parent, a mediator, and even the judge with a clear view of your proposed parenting plan.

What types of custody are there?

Some states may call them different things, but as a general rule, there are two types of custody:

  • Legal custody pertains to the authority a parent has over the child. This includes the power to make decisions regarding the child's education, medical care, religion, etc.
  • Physical custody refers to the actual care and possession of the child.

There are also a few different kinds of joint and legal custody:

  • Joint legal custody means the parents will share legal custody of the child. This is the more common form of legal custody.
  • Sole legal custody means that only one parent has legal custody of the child.
  • Joint physical custody means both parents will share physical custody of the child. This does not necessarily mean they have to divide the child's time equally between them. Joint custody is becoming more and more common and some states even prefer to award it.
  • Sole physical custody means only one parent has physical custody of the child. The other parent may be given visitation rights to the child.
  • Split custody means that one parent has custody of one child and the other parent has custody of another child. This is not a very common kind of custody but it works for some families.
  • Bird-nesting is an option available in some states. Bird-nesting means the children remain in one home and the parents take turns living there. It is not very common but it does provide the children with a stable environment. This option is great for families that have a lot of children, since the parents will only be responsible for maintaining one large home for them instead of two.

Can I create my own parenting plan without the court's help?

The majority of courts actually prefer that parents work together to create their own parenting plans.

When parents are able to reach an agreement on their own, the court will review their agreement to ensure it meets the needs and serves the best interests of the child.

You can use Custody X Change to help you reach an agreement with the other parent.

To start, create the parenting plan and visitation calendar you want with Custody X Change. Once it is completed, you can print out a copy for the other parent to review and suggest changes to.

After you review the suggestions of the other parent, you can easily make changes to your plan. You can keep revising the plan until you are both in agreement or you have agreed on all the things you were able to.

Working with the documents to negotiate your parenting plan can be beneficial since you will be dealing with papers instead of the other parent. Sometimes it is easier to "hear" the other parent's point of view when it is written down.

Once you have agreed on everything that you are going to agree on, you can then present a proposed parenting plan (highlighting the sections you were able to agree on) to the mediator or judge to consider.

What are the "best interests of the child"?

Another custody rule that is good to know is that the courts make decisions based on what is best for the child. It is important to keep this in mind and create your parenting plan accordingly.

Some of the factors that courts consider when determining the child's "best interests" are:

  • The history of the relationships and the strength of the bonds between the child and each parent
  • Which parent has acted as the child's primary caregiver
  • Whether or not the child has any siblings and how to preserve interfamilial relationships
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • How well the parents would be able to execute the parenting plan
  • Whether or not there is any history of domestic violence, child neglect, or any kind of abuse
  • The ability and willingness of each parent to fulfill the child's physical needs
  • The ability and willingness of each parent to meet the child's emotional needs
  • The motives and sincerity of each parent seeking custody

Basically, anything that is relevant to the care and custody of the child will be considered. The judge will consider all of the important issues regarding the child and his or her future care.

What should I include in my custody agreement / parenting plan?

Your parenting plan (also called a custody agreement) is going to serve as the foundation for and the rules for raising your child until her or she reaches adulthood.

All good parenting plans should contain the following elements:

  • A regular residential schedule that dictates when the child will be with each parent on a regular basis
  • A holiday schedule that allows the child to spend equitable amounts of time with each a parent for holidays
  • A vacation schedule or provisions for vacation time so the child may spend extended time with each parent for vacations
  • A statement that allocates decision-making authority (for important issues regarding the child's health, education, etc.) to each, either, or both parents
  • A method for modifying the agreement should the need arise in the future
  • A method of dispute resolution should the parents fail to agree on something in the future
  • Any stipulations or provisions that pertain to matters involving the child

Your parenting plan can be as detailed as you would like. In fact, the more details you include, the better your parenting plan will be.

Custody X Change can help you be prepared for any circumstance that comes up. Try it today and see how it can help you.

The easiest way to make a parenting plan

Creating a parenting plan on your own can feel overwhelming. You have to address all possible situations, while using airtight legal language.

Use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app walks you through each step of creating a plan.

The result will be a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent and secures your child's future.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Schedule and Plan Now

Explore examples of common schedules



Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years


Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court


Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

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