The Main Types of Child Custody: A Complete Guide

Divorce can be a painful process and can even be worse when involving children. If you are about to get a divorce, it is good to know that there are different custody awards. When awarding custody, the court takes into account various factors.

The main objective of custody is to come up with an arrangement that favors the child most. If you are not content with the court’s verdict on child custody, you can modify the existing custody order. Below are the main types of child custody that will help you remain informed on the best decision for your child custody.

Types of Child Custody

If you have a child aged below 18, you may be in a dilemma on the type of custody agreement that will work for both you and your ex-spouse and in the child’s best interest. There are two types of custody; physical custody and legal custody.

There are two types of legal custody: joint legal custody and sole legal custody. Physical custody could either be split physical care, joint physical care, or primary physical care.

On some occasions, you will find grandparents seeking custody. Even if it is uncommon, the judge could listen to the reasons of both parties and grant them custody.

Below are more details on the custody types.

Legal Custody

Legal custody determines the legal responsibility and rights of both parents. The legal custodial rights could involve the child’s religious instruction, extracurricular activities, education, medical care, and legal status.

Courts use various standards in determining the type of legal custody parents should receive. Legal custody could either be shared or given to one parent.

Joint Legal Custody

This is the most common type of legal custody that parents receive. With joint legal custody, both parents have equal rights to the control of the child. Joint legal custody is preferred because it allows both parents to share in the responsibilities and rights of the child.

With this type of custody, the child maintains a good relationship with both parents. If one of the parents requests for the award of joint legal custody, the court does so unless clear and convincing evidence shows that the custody will not benefit the child in the best way possible.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole legal custody is rare. The only thing that prevents parents from receiving joint legal custody is if there has been a history of domestic abuse between them. However, allegations of domestic abuse do not justify the awarding of sole legal custody.

A court can also decide to award sole legal custody if it concludes that joint legal custody is not in the best interest of the child. A court could decide to award sole legal custody if one of the parents has had suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, depression, or has been a danger to themself or the children.

But among the two types of legal custody, joint legal custody is the most common since both parents can weigh in on important life decisions of the child.

Joint legal custody is a relief to a parent who has not received the primary physical custody but wants to have an equal contribution to the significant decisions in the child’s life.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is also known as physical care. It involves where and with whom the child will live with. Depending on the situation, the judge could grant primary physical care to parents or one parent to share the physical custody.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody or shared physical care is when parents share physical custody. Under this type of physical care, the child lives with both parents at different times. Here, parents should look after the child for an equal amount of time. Also, they should make decisions regarding the child together.

In this arrangement, both parents provide routine care for the child, share parenting time with the child, maintain homes for the child, and have equal parenting responsibilities and rights.

Different factors are considered when determining whether parents deserve joint physical care. Some of these factors include the ability of the parents to show mutual respect and communicate, the historical caregiving arrangement for the child between the parents, and the degree of conflict between the parents, among others.

Primary Physical Custody

Primary physical care is where a child lives with only one of the parents. It does not matter whether the parents have joint legal custody; the child will still live with one parent. The parent denied custody is permitted to visit the child occasionally.

The noncustodial parent might raise a concern that their status as a parent is reduced, but this is not true. If you share joint legal custody with your spouse, you can also make decisions for your child. When awarding this type of custody, the factor that is considered most is the emotional stability of the child.

When awarding primary physical custody, the court does not consider the gender of the parent or the geographical location. Instead, the most significant concerns are the desire and capacity of the parent to provide, the needs and characteristics of the child, and the relationship of the child with their parent.

Split Physical Custody

Split physical custody is where each parent is given a child to look after in cases where there is more than one child. However, this is an uncommon type of custody since judges do not find separating siblings a good idea.

The Child Custody Type That Suits You Best

In a custody case, the stakes are very high. The judge’s decision determines the level of responsibilities and rights you have and the time you’ll get to spend with your child.

Being informed on the different types of child custody gives you room to prepare or request a particular kind of custody if you feel you deserve it. Being informed also prevents you from being in heated legal battles with your ex-spouse over the child’s custody.

If you found this article informative, kindly check others on our blog.


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