Legal Custody
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Residual Rights, Privileges, and Obligations
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We just learned that the person or persons granted legal custody of a child have tremendous rights, duties, and responsibilities with respect to the care and control of the child. However, although legal custody is a form of custody that is intended to be permanent in nature, the non-custodial biological parents have residual rights, privileges, and obligations that relate to the child. What does this mean?

Well, for starters, "residual" is synonymous with the word "remaining". In other words, non-custodial natural parents have rights that remain with them, despite the fact that they are not the legal custodian of the child. Although the laws may vary slightly from state to state, natural parents usually maintain the right to consent to the adoption of the child, the privileges of reasonable visitation with the child and determining the child’s religious affiliation, and the obligation to pay child support to the legal custodian of the child. Let’s go back to Suzy and her grandmother from the previous page as an example.

Legal Custody Example – Suzy & Children Services

If you remember, Suzy’s grandmother was awarded legal custody of the child after she was abandoned by her parents. As legal custodian, grandma now has care and control of the child, and must ensure that all of her basic, medical, and educational needs are being met.

Let’s assume that Suzy’s parents return to her life several months later. They are upset to find that grandma now has legal custody of Suzy, and they are demanding that grandma let them see the child. Because grandma has legal custody, Suzy’s parents have the right to have some form of reasonable visitation with their daughter. They also have every right to determine her religious affiliation. If grandma wants Suzy to be a Jehova’s Witness, and her parents want her to be a practicing Catholic, Suzy will follow the teachings of Catholicism. Additionally, if grandma wants to adopt Suzy at some point, she will only be able to do so with the consent of both of Suzy’s parents.

With these rights and privileges comes an obligation, as well. Both of Suzy’s parents have the obligation to pay child support to grandma. The theory behind this is that because legal custody still allows the natural parents to have great rights and privileges with respect to the child, they should be obligated to help the person who has been designated as the child’s custodian. (This is very different from permanent custody, where the rights of the natural parents are completely terminated.)

Finally, we’ll conclude this article with a few key points to remember.

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