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What is custody?

November 5, 2016 Blog

Custody plays an important role in divorce cases, as it is one of the most important factors settled upon if the married couple has children. Different types of custody can be awarded depending on the specific details of the case, but the custody itself ultimately determines which parent is responsible for making decisions regarding raising the child. Sometimes a single parent may have custody according to different guidelines and regulations, and other times both parents may have joint custody over the child. Learning about the different types of custody can allow parents to make more informed decisions in the future regarding the well-being of their child after a divorce.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to when a parent has won the right to have their child live with them. There are some states that will provide joint physical custody rights when the child of the divorced parents spends a considerable amount of time with both of the parents. Joint physical custody often works best if the parents live close enough to each other to lessen the stress of regular commuting on the child. This can result in a somewhat more normal routine and it is often considered by the court before the custody rights are awarded. When the child lives with one of the parents and has visitation rights from the other, the parent with whom the child lives is known as the custodial parent. The other parent who has the visitation rights is known as the noncustodial parent.

Legal Custody

In addition to physical custody, another important part of the legal proceedings is determining legal custody. Legal custody of the child in question means that the parents have the right and obligation to make certain decisions about the child’s upbringing. Parents with legal custody will be able to make decisions about their child’s schooling, their religious upbringing and the direction of their medical care. In numerous states, courts will regularly give joint legal custody to the parents, which means that even if the parents do not live together, the decision making on the child’s upbringing is still shared by both of the parents. If one parent prevents another parent from providing input in a situation of joint legal custody, the case may make it back to court, and the judge may be required to enforce the legal custody agreement.

Sole Custody

Within a sole custody arrangement, only one parent will have either legal custody or physical custody of their child. Courts will typically award sole physical or legal custody to either parent of the former marriage if the other parent is found to be unfit. Things such as drug or alcohol dependency can often be enough to result in such a decision. Similarly, if one parent has charges of child neglect or child abuse, they may also be deemed unfit in taking care of the child. As an attempt to bridge the gap between the parents, it is not uncommon for courts to award physical custody to one parent but legal custody to both parents. This results in both parents playing a role in the child’s development and growth, either through shared decisions on the child’s upbringing or in shared time through visitation rights.

Joint Custody

As was mentioned earlier, joint custody can refer to any shared responsibilities in either physical or legal custody. Joint custody can play a role in the child’s development in a number of situations, such as if the parents are separated, legally divorced, no longer living together or haven ever lived together in the first place. Many joint custody arrangements are unique to the situation, and the court determines what is in the child’s best interests before finalizing the arrangements. Some common practices include splitting the weeks the child spends in each single parent’s house. Sometimes alternating months and years are also considered depending on what the child needs. The court may also determine that a nesting custody agreement may be required, where the child stays in a family home and the child’s parents take turns moving in to live with the child.

Like with any arrangement, individuals involved in the divorce case should keep up with the details in order to get the most beneficial arrangement for them and their children.



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