Types Of Child Custody

The process of splitting up and divorcing can be complicated enough when it only involves two adults, but it will become even more convoluted if children are involved. There are three general types of custody that you should understand – legal, physical, and visitation. This guide can walk you through each of them.

Legal custody

Legal custody affords you all parental right. In other words, you are allowed to make decisions on behalf of your child's well-being, whether they are of a medical, educational, or personal nature. It's important to understand that there are variations of legal custody, though.

If you have sole legal custody, then only you can make decisions on behalf of your child. On the other hand, if you have joint legal custody, typically with the other parent, then either of you can make decisions for your child. This can be especially beneficial if your child spends long periods of time with their other parent, such as visiting a parent that lives out of state over the summer months. This way they can make a medical decision in the event of an accident, even if the doctors can't get a hold of you.

Physical custody

Physical custody is only in reference to the living of arrangements of the child, and it is independent of the legal custody status. Parents can have joint physical custody with one with sole legal custody, and vice versa.

Sole physical custody means the child only lives with one parent, although the other parent may have visitation. Joint physical custody is what occurs when a child is a resident of both parent's home. This commonly happens when a child lives with one parent for half the year and the other for the other half, or if the child lives with one parent on weekends and the other during the week.

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While every custody arrangement will provide legal and physical custody to at least one parent or guardian, visitation is not a part of every custody arrangement. Visitation rights are provided when one parent does not have any physical custody rights. Sometimes, visitation rights are also allowed to other family members in danger of becoming estranged after a divorce, such as grandparents of the child.

Visitation also falls under two main types – supervised and unsupervised. Supervised visitation means exactly that – an adult approved by the courts must be present to monitor the visitation between the parent and child. Unsupervised visitation can mimic joint custody, as the child may spend long periods of time with the non-custodial parent. The arrangements are worked out individually or determined by the court.

For more information, talk with a lawyer like Patricia L Riddick PLLC Atty