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Understanding the Different Types of Child Custody

With the prevalence of divorce on the rise, we’re often confronted with issues of child custody in the news and in our everyday lives. While you may have an idea about what custody of a child involves, you may not know the different types of child custody and the rights granted by each.

Below, we’ve included an overview of the three basic types of child custody: sole physical custody, joint physical custody, and legal custody.

Sole Physical Custody

Generally, the child will live with the parent who was granted sole physical custody. A parent with physical custody of a child has the right to care for the child on a day-to-day basis. Under most modern custody arrangements, one parent, termed the “custodial” parent, is granted physical custody, while the other parent is granted visitation rights. In such arrangements, both parents are generally granted legal custody of the child.

Joint Physical Custody

In a joint physical custody arrangement, the child lives with each parent for roughly equal periods of time. In such arrangements, the parents draft a custodial agreement outlining when and for how long the child stays with each parent. Joint physical custody arrangements were more common in the past. Today, courts often avoid awarding joint physical custody in order to avoid disrupting the child’s routine. Now, it’s more common for one parent to be awarded sole physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody gives a parent the right to make important decisions about key aspects of the child’s upbringing and future, including medical and dental care, education, and religious instruction. Unless it’s shown that a parent is unfit or incapable of making decisions about the child’s future, generally both parents are awarded legal custody of a child. Unlike physical custody, legal custody does not involve where or with whom the child lives.

Remember that child custody arrangements should be devised in the best interests of the child. If you would like to learn more about child custody arrangements, you may want to contact a family law attorney.

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