When a child enters the world, it is a cultural expectation in the United States that they will be nurtured, clothed, sheltered, nourished, and held accountable for by their parents until the reach the age of 18. Unfortunately, society is filled with hardships and disappoints that often occur which can interrupt or upset the "expectation" of children receiving the care and provision that they need and deserve. .
Child custody and legal guardianship are legal terms which are used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the child to make decisions, and the parent's obligation to care for the child (nolo.com). Families appear in court for child custody cases for various reasons. Most often, child custody is sought out by divorcing or separating couples or parents who share a child outside of marriage wanting to have rights and responsibilities in regards to their child's growth and upbringing. The focus of this assignment will be on child custody as it relates to children who are placed in the foster care system and are either in the process of returning to their birth families or will be placed for adoption with another family. .
According to Neighborhood Legal Services Association, when the court makes a decision about custody, it must decide who should have legal custody and who should have physical custody. Legal custody ensures the right for a parent to make major decisions that would affect the child medically, religiously and educationally (nlsa.us). Joint custody simply means joint, physical custody (familyrelationslaw.com). Joint Legal custody occurs when both parents share the same rights and obligations to the child in regards to making decisions about health care, education, and the child's welfare. Sole Legal Custody occurs when only one of the parents has the right to making decisions on the child's behalf.