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The FindLaw Legal Dictionary -- free access to over 8260 definitions of legal terms. Search for a definition or browse our legal glossaries.



custody n

[Latin custodia, from custod- custos guardian]
: care or control exercised by a person or authority over something or someone: as
a : supervision and control over property that usually includes liability for damage that may occur
b : care and maintenance of a child that includes the right to direct the child's activities and make decisions regarding the child's upbringing compare visitation

joint custody
: custody of a child shared by divorced or separated parents who alternate physical custody of and share in decisions regarding the child called also shared custody

phys·i·cal custody
: custody that includes sharing a residence with a child

shared custody
: joint custody in this entry

sole custody
: custody of a child awarded to only one person and usually to a parent

tem·po·rary custody
: custody awarded until a final judgment in a matter (as a divorce) is made
c : official restraint on freedom (as by arrest or imprisonment or by release on bail, personal recognizance, probation, or parole) compare arrest

constructive custody
: custody of a person (as a parolee) who is not under immediate physical control but whose freedom is controlled or restrained by legal authority

penal custody
: custody of a person (as in a correctional institution) as a form of punishment

phys·i·cal custody
: custody of a person (as an arrestee) whose freedom is under the actual and immediate control of an official NOTE: A person need not be in physical custody to be entitled to habeas corpus protection.

preventive custody
: custody of a person (as a criminal defendant awaiting trial) for the purpose of preventing further possible dangerous or criminal behavior

pro·tec·tive custody
: physical custody of a person for his or her own safety

Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

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