Types of Child Custody: Which is the Best for Your Child?

There are four child custody types from which spouses can choose:

Legal custody – courts in some states sometimes decide on awarding this type of custody to both parents. Legal custody gives the custodial parent(s) the right and responsibility to decide on matters concerning the child’s growth and basic needs, like education, religious upbringing, and health care. In joint legal custody or when the right to decide is given to both parents, both spouses are given the right to provide input about this issue and to have a say in the ultimate decision.

Physical custody – this type of custody gives the custodial parent the right to live with his or her child/ children, while the other parent is typically awarded visitation rights. In the event that the divorced parents live near one another and the child / children spend considerable amounts of time with both of them, then the court may allow joint physical custody instead.

Sole custody – though many courts are now veering away from entrusting a child to only one parent and increasing the role played by fathers in a child’s life after divorce, sole custody would still be the decision if one parent is judged to be unfit due to dependency on drugs or alcohol, neglect or abuse of the child, mental incapacity, or an unfit new partner.

Joint custody – this type of custody has various forms:

  • joint physical custody;
  • joint legal custody; and
  • joint legal and physical custody

Divorced couples who are awarded joint physical custody also usually enjoy joint legal custody, but not vice-versa. Though joint custody allows the parents continuous involvement in the child’s life, which is highly beneficial to the child, it also has some disadvantages. You should consult with a qualified legal professional to learn more about these issues.