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 duty to care for the child.

Residence and contact issues typically arise in proceedings involving divorce (dissolution of marriage), annulment, and other legal proceedings where children may be involved. In most jurisdictions the issue of which parent the child will reside with is determined in accordance with the best interests of the child standard.

Family law proceedings which involve issues of residence and contact often generate the most acrimonious disputes. While most parents cooperate when it comes to sharing their children and resort to mediation to settle a dispute, not all do. For those that engage in litigation, there seem to be few limits. Court filings quickly fill with mutual accusations by one parent against the other, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, brain-washing, parental alienation syndrome, sabotage, and manipulation. Custody battles are not in the child's best interest and are often used by an angry parent in order to control his/her former partner.
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