Different Types of Child Custody

mother and two sons after winning child custody after legal separation

mother and two sons after winning child custody after legal separation

Most people know what child custody means in general, but not everybody is aware of all of the various types of child custody available to parents or guardians. In this article we will be providing you with an overview of the different kinds of child custody there are.

Physical Custody

One of the more common types of child custody is physical custody. If a court or another type of ruling body has granted a parent physical custody of their child, it means the parent has the legal right for the child to live with her or him. In some states, joint physical might be awarded where a child stays with both the father and mother for significant time periods.

Joint physical custody, in most situations, is only awarded when the child’s parents are planning on living fairly close to one another. When the parents do live too far apart from one another, the potential strain that it can place on the child might result in having one of parents awarded with sole physical custody.

The term sole physical custody is used when the child primarily lives with one parent and then the other parent has limited custody or visitation rights. For instance, a mother might have sole physical custody, with the child living every day with her and then the child just has visits with the father for a couple of hours within a certain period of time.

Legal Custody

When a parent is awarded legal custody of their child, that means the parent also has legal authority for making decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, health and education. The parent who has legal custody of their child has the authority to make decisions on what kind of medical care will be received by the child, which religion he or she will practice and the school they will go to. Numerous states will award legal custody following a divorce quite often. What that means is that parents will need to make joint decisions and cooperate regarding the upbringing of their child.

If one of the parents within a joint legal custody arrangement takes away decision-making powers from the child’s other parent (for example making a unilateral decision regarding a child’s education), then the other parent has the right to return to court to get the joint legal custody order enforced by the judge. The judge probably won’t send the parent who violated the order to jail or punish them, but it can cause embarrassment and introduce additional stress into a relationship that is already strained (which can also be harmful for the child). Legal fees can also add up every time an attorney goes back to court.

Sole Custody

Judges do sometimes award sole physical or legal custody of a child to just one of the parents. Frequently sole physical custody is awarded during a divorce proceeding whenever it has been demonstrated that one of the parents is unfit, and it is frequently due to alcohol, drug or financial problems. Also, if one parent is living with a new partner, where it is deemed that the new partner is unfit to take good care of the child, it may result in sole physical custody being awarded to the other parent who is better able to take good care of the child.

However, recently there has been trend of joint legal custody being allowed even in situations where sole physical custody has been awarded to only one parent. Even when sole physical custody has been awarded, the push has been to allow visitation rights that are more lenient for that parent not living with the child.

Joint Custody

If a child’s parents don’t live together but are both responsible for housing and other decisions regarding their child, then they are engaged in joint physical or legal custody. Joint custody may be joint physical custody, legal custody, or both.

For parents who do share joint physical custody of their child, it is also fairly common for them to also share joint legal custody. However, when the opposite is true, that is not necessarily always the case. Parents who share in the joint legal custody of their child do not always share in joint physical custody, and the child might primarily live with just one parent.

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