Child custody. It is often the most disputed and heated issue involved in a divorce or separation. Parents love their children—that is expected. But how do they go about negotiating shared time with the other parent? Determining child custody can be difficult, especially considering the various factors that can impact an agreement. Not only do you need to determine who gets custody, but what type of custody they get. While one agreement may give all custodial power to one parent, another may balance it out more evenly.
So what types of custody are available and how are they different? We explain more below.
In most family law cases, the judge will try to give a child fair time with both parents when at all possible. This doesn’t always mean shared or joint custody but does mean that they will aim to give the child adequate time with both their father and their mother.
There four different variations of custody that can be awarded:
While physical and legal custody are more focused on the type of authority a parent has, sole and joint custody define how much authority a parent has. Like it sounds, sole custody is granted to one parent. It can be granted for physical custody, legal custody, or both. When a parent has sole custody, they have singular decision-making power regarding either the child’s upbringing (legal) or their living arrangements (physical). On the other hand, joint custody encourages more of a traditional parenting method, giving both parents equal decision-making power. This means they will make decisions on their child’s life together.
This type of custody is traditionally what most people think of when they hear child custody. Physical custody refers to which parent the child will live with on a regular basis. This parent will also have the right to move away (when necessary) if they have sole custody. Since the child is primarily living with them, they will make decisions on day to day matters such as diet, activities, and other basic occurrences. While the other parent doesn’t necessarily have control over these areas, they may still be allowed to voice their opinion or concerns, regardless of whether one parent has sole physical custody. In most cases, visitation is still given if one parent is given sole physical custody.
This type of custody gives the parent the legal authority to make decisions on their child’s upbringing. This means they have the responsibility to make decisions regarding their education, their health (such as which doctors to see), and their religious practices. Even if they live with another parent as well, the parent with legal custody will have the ultimate authority on these types of decision. While parents typically make these types of decisions together, the judge can decide to give sole custody to one parent if they think this is in the best interests of the child. This means the other parent cannot have any legal say in such matters.
In most cases, parents will have to work together to raise their child. Even if a judge awards one parent sole physical custody, they may decide to grant joint legal custody, allowing both parents a say in how a child will be brought up. A judge may also decide to deem one parent responsible for their upbringing, awarding sole legal custody, but still giving the other parent shared physical custody. As in all legal matters involving children, the judge will aim to help parents reach an agreement that is best for the child—which often involves both parents when there is no serious issue of abuse or violence.
If you are wondering what agreement is best for your situation, it is important to consult with a seasoned child custody lawyer in St. Louis. Start by calling the Buxner Law Firm at (314) 863-6000.