In many cases, parents who have recently gone through a divorce know that they want to continue a relationship with their children, but they quickly become confused by the legal jargon that accompanies child custody cases. While you may know that you want to see your kids regularly on the weekends, or that you want your children to live with you fulltime, you may not know how to voice your wishes in legal terms. What’s the difference between split custody and joint custody? What’s the difference between legal custody and physical custody? Below we’ve defined some of the basic concepts in child custody cases that may help you better understand your own case:
- Legal Custody. Having legal custody of a child means having the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. These decisions could include choices about schooling, medical care, moral teachings, religion, and discipline. A judge will often award joint legal custody to both parents unless it is not in the best interests of the child or children.
- Physical Custody. Having physical custody simply means that the child lives in your home for the majority of the time. In some cases, in which the parents live close by and in which the children will benefit, parents will be awarded joint physical custody of their children. However, it is more common for one parent to have physical custody and the other parent to have visitation rights. Joint physical custody may involve living with one parent for six months and then the other parent for six months or living with one parent on weekdays and the other parent on weekends. Alternatively, the children could live in the same home year-round while the parents take turns living with them.
- Sole Custody. A parent could be awarded sole physical custody, sole legal custody, or both. This may take place is one parent or a parent’s new partner is deemed unfit, but in most cases a court will work to give some parental rights to each parent. An unfit parent may be neglectful or abusive or have mental illness or addiction.
- Joint Custody or Shared Custody. These two types of custody involve each parents sharing rights – whether physical rights, legal rights, or both. It is common for parents to have shared legal custody but not shared physical custody or for parents to share both physical custody and legal custody.
- Split Custody. Split custody involves families with two or more children. In these cases, some children will reside with the mother while others reside with the father. Though some argue that splitting siblings is not an ideal arrangement, some families find this to be the best solution for their families and their situation.
Finding the optimal custody arrangement can be extremely difficult for everyone involved, especially if you and your spouse disagree on what you think is best. An experienced family law attorney could help you with your child custody case – contact us today for more information.