Legal Professional?
Build Your Business
Drop to LL.com Full View
Facebook Icon Twitter Icon

Talk to a Lawyer Today

What Are The Different Types Of Child Custody



Child custody is governed by state law. A divorcing couple's final decree will address the custody of any minor children of the spouses, regardless of whether the custody determination is achieved through agreement, mediation or litigation. Because of the long-term impacts of custody decisions on every member of the family, it is prudent for a divorcing couple with children to consult with legal counsel on these weighty issues.

Types of custody

Four major types of child custody are available:

  • Legal custody - This type of custody means the parent possesses the right to make all decisions for the child's needs and upbringing. Specifically, the parent is authorized to make determinations about the child's education, health care, religion, discipline and schedule, while consulting the non-custodial parent. In the majority of states, family courts grant joint legal custody to both parents, so that they are both able to keep their legal rights as to making decisions about rearing their children. This type of custody concerns having legal responsibility for the child, as opposed to the amount of time spent in the company of the child.
  • Physical custody - Under this type of custody, the child resides with one parent and has visitation with the non-custodial parent. Some states recognize joint physical custody when a child spends the same amount of time at each parent's home. This type of custody has more to do with where the child technically spends his or her time and takes residence, as opposed to which parent makes legal decisions on the child's behalf.
  • Sole custody - This type of custody can refer to sole legal custody, sole physical custody or both. It is uncommon for family courts to award sole legal custody to a parent in recent times. One of the motivators for a court to award sole legal custody to one parent is the proven unfitness to parent of the other spouse. The far more frequent occurrence is that the family court will encourage and help facilitate significant involvement of the non-custodial parent in the child's life and upbringing. If the family court awards sole physical custody, the non-custodial parent is still permitted to have visitation with the child. An award of sole physical custody does not preclude the non-custodial parent from fully taking part in the child-rearing decision-making process on legal matters and issues addressing the child's needs.
  • Joint custody - This type of custody is granted equally to both spouses. It can take the form of joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both. This is one of the most common types of custody awarded to parents who desire a close and active relationship with their minor child or children, when no parental fitness issues exist.