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Types of Child Custody


There are four main forms of child custody: legal custody, physical custody, joint custody, and sole custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody grants a parent the right to make major decisions about how a child will be raised. Such decisions can include the type of school the child will attend, his religious education, and his medical and dental care. Legal custody may be awarded solely to one parent or may be jointly awarded to both parents, in which case both parents will have equal say in all aspects of the child’s upbringing.

Physical Custody

Physical custody allows a parent to have his or her child live with him or her. Often, one parent is awarded physical custody and the other parent is granted visitation rights. However, some parents may decide upon joint physical custody, in which the child lives with each parent approximately 50 percent of the time.

Joint Custody

A form of child custody that awards joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both to each parent. When parents are awarded joint legal custody they must agree about decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. When parents are awarded joint physical custody, the child will spend equal time living with the mother and the father. When parents are awarded both joint legal custody and joint physical custody, both scenarios above apply.

Sole Custody

A form of child custody that grants one parent both legal custody and physical custody of the child.

Child Custody and Grandparents

In instances where neither parent is able to care for the children, another party such as a grandparent or other relative may be given custody.

Bird’s Nest Custody

Bird’s nest custody refers to a rare custodial agreement (usually decided upon by the parents, not a court), whereby a child lives full-time in the family home, while his parents, who in this case share legal and physical custody, take turns moving in and out of the house.

For more detailed information on the types of child custody and how custody is determined, contact a family lawyer today.

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