Types of child custody arrangements

Law Blog

Child custody cases are often contentious between both divorcing spouses. To adequately prepare for a child custody dispute, spouses can hire the services of family lawyers to present a solid case on their behalf why the family court should grant them custody of the children. Additionally, a family lawyer can explain to you the different categories of child custody and which type of custody to seek based on the best interests of your child. Read on for further insight.

Physical custody

This means that one parent is given the right to have the child or children live with him or her under the same roof. The parent who lives with the kids is referred to as the custodial parent. The other parent, known as the noncustodial parent will only have visitation rights to the kids. Some states also award joint physical custody. Here, the child lives with both parents at a time. For example, one week they live with one parent, and the next week they live with the other parent. This works best if both parents live somewhat close to each other.

Legal custody

With legal custody, a parent has the right to make important decisions regarding the child's upbringing. The parent granted legal custody can make decisions touching on the child's religious upbringing, schooling and medical care. Most states often award joint legal custody, meaning the decision making is shared between both parents.

Sole custody

One parent is granted either sole physical custody or sole legal custody of the child. Generally, courts don't hesitate to grant sole physical custody if one of the parents is considered unfit, for example, due to alcohol abuse or drug dependency or accusations of child neglect or abuse. It goes without saying that divorcing parents may be having hostility between them. However, it's best to avoid seeking sole child custody except when the other parent causes actual harm to the child. Even then, family courts may still grant the other parent controlled visitation.

Joint custody

Joint custody may be in the form of the following:

  • Joint physical custody- the children spend time with each parent
  • Joint legal custody- both parents share the decision-making burden of the child's upbringing
  • Joint physical and legal custody combined

Joint custody assures the child continuing contact and connection with both parents which is important for their upbringing. Additionally, it eases some of the pressures of parenting associated with sole custody, which means both parents can share the parenting burden.


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