Child Custody Types

Over the years, the rules regarding child custody have changed. At one time, it was pretty standard for the courts to rule in favor of the mother receiving full custody of the children. However, today, the courts are taking the best interests of the child in mind when deciding on custody and make their decision based on that- no matter if it’s the mother or the father. You should know that while each state does have their own laws regarding custody of children, most of them choose from the following five types of child custody.

  • Sole Custody

This type of custody is only awarded when one of the parents is deemed to be unfit. Courts can rule unfit for various reasons, such as a drug/alcohol problem, proven abuse/neglect, or the new partner of the parent is unfit. If the parent is not awarded sole custody, they are the noncustodial parent. However, most states are not awarding sole custody anymore and will rule for joint legal custody as long as the child isn’t in direct harm. Sole custody does allow for visitation for the noncustodial parent.

  • Physical Custody

This type of custody is where the child lives with one parent physically. The other parent is still allowed to have visitation with the child.

  • Joint Physical Custody

In this type of custody situation, the child spends significant amounts of time with both parents. The parents will divide days and the child is “at home” with either parent. However, if the parents are unable to reach a decision on dividing days, the courts will make the decision for them. Joint physical custody will work best in those situations where parents live in the same town so that the child will be able to attend school and still be near their friends. This situation gives the children a normal routine and therefore lowers stress.

  • Legal Custody

In some cases, courts could rule that one parent gets legal custody. This means that they have the right to make decisions regarding the upbringing of the child. They are obliged to act in the best interests of the child. Decisions include: school, medical care, and religion. Legal custody is only awarded to one parent in extreme cases and only if it is in the best interests of the child.

  • Joint Legal Custody

In most states, courts rule for joint legal custody. This means that the decisions regarding the child must be made by both parents. If one of the parents defies this agreement, they can be taken back to court and the other parent can ask the judge to enforce the agreement. The judge may or may not be able to put the offending parent in jail or levy fines, but it does increase the tension between the parents. The children are the ones who suffer the most when the parents cannot agree.

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