Child custody cases generally fall under the jurisdiction of a family court, often in connection with a divorce hearing. The laws differ among states, most are based on the Federal Uniform Child Custody Act. Parents generally have equal rights and responsibilities for their children. The decision as to which parent should have custody of a child can often be reached by private agreement, sometimes through mediation, or, in difficult cases, by a court. It's usually best if separating parents can reach an agreement concerning child custody but, if this is not possible, mediation is an option. In California, Maine, and New Mexico, mediation in child custody cases is mandatory. If mediation fails, a family court judge will usually decide. In Texas, parents have the right to a jury trial in custody cases. Custody is generally awarded to one or both parents based on the best interests of the child. In some states, the primary caregiver of the child is favored in awarding custody, and occasionally the wishes of the child are also taken into consideration. In many cases, both parents are granted custody, and both have to pay child support. If one parent is awarded custody, the other parent generally receives specific visitation rights and is ordered to pay child support. In deciding which parent is to be awarded custody, most states employ a standard list of criteria, including the moral fitness of each parent, the ability to provide for the child, and the willingness of each parent to allow the child a continuing relationship with the other parent. If you're involved in a child custody case, contact an attorney.