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Important Terminology in Custody Matters

Attorneys, courts and other professionals use various terminology that can be confusing to the general public.  Below we define and explain several terms in child custody matters.  

  1.  Primary Residential Parent and Legal Custodian:  The primary residential parent and legal custodian is typically called sole custody.  The primary residential parent will have the exclusive rights to make all medical and educational decisions for the minor child.  The primary residential parent does not have the ability to unilaterally withhold the child from visitation with the other parent.  The classification of primary residential parent does not have an impact on the visitation schedule.  
  2. Shared Parenting:  Under shared parenting, the parties agree to cooperate and  communicate regarding all major decisions for the minor child.  Neither party will have greater parental rights than the other parent.  The parents will typically enter into a shared parenting plan that will discuss all of the parental rights and responsibilities.  Typically, the shared parenting plan will discuss the parenting time schedule, holiday schedule, vacations, communication, child support, medical decisions, educational decisions, and other issues.  Shared parenting does not have an impact on the parenting time schedule.  
  3. Residential Parent for School Purposes:  Typically, a shared parenting plan will provide for the residential parent for school purposes.  This classification is so the school district knows that the children can be enrolled in that particular district.  Therefore, the address for the residential parent for school purposes will be the school district where the children will attend school.    
  4. Guardian Ad Litem:  A guardian ad litem or GAL is an individual appointed by the Court who will perform an investigation and make recommendations to the Court regarding all parenting issues.  The GAL is typically an attorney or social worker.  The GAL will interview the parents, the children, teachers, medical professionals and other relevant individuals.  The GAL will draft a report for the Court and the attorneys to review.  
  5. Custody Evaluation By A Psychologist:  If necessary, the Court could require the parties to undergo a custody evaluation by a psychologist.  The psychologist will perform an investigation similar to a guardian ad litem.  However, the psychologist will also perform psychological testing.  The psychologist will then submit a report to the Court and the attorneys. 

We welcome you to call Randal A. Lowry & Associates at (330) 576-3363 to consult with us regarding your child custody matters. Our Akron-area family law attorneys serve clients throughout Summit, Medina, Portage, Stark and Cuyahoga counties.

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