There are different forms of child custody: legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and joint custody.
Physical custody means a parent has gained the legal right (typically through a court ruling) to have a child live with him or her. Usually if a parent has physical custody they also have sole custody of the child, which means the other parent has visitation rights.
There are two forms of sole custody a parent can have: sole legal custody or sole physical custody. Courts seem to be moving away from awarding sole custody to one parent as more information is coming out about the importance of having both parents in a child’s life. In cases where a parent has been deemed unfit due to a history of neglect or abuse, a known dependency on drugs or alcohol, or a new parented that has been deemed unfit, a court will usually award sole physical custody to one parent. It’s advised that unless a parent has demonstrated the above issues, that you do not seek sole custody, due to the importance of having both parents in a child’s life.
While the trend is to award joint custody, in cases where courts do award sole physical custody the parents still usually share joint legal custody (which means both parents are able to make legal decisions regarding the child), unless a parents has been deemed unfit to make those legal decisions.
Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions regarding various aspects of a child’s life, including: education, religion, and medical care or legal issues.
Joint custody is abel to be awarded to the parents if they are divorced, separated, no longer living together, or if they never lived together but still shared a child. The awarding of joint custody to both parents means each parent is able to make decisions regarding the child. Joint custody also comes in various forms, including: joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or joint legal and physical custody. Usually if a couple shares joint physical custody they also share joint legal custody. But if a couple shares joint legal custody they do not always also share joint physical custody.
Working with a Child Custody Attorney
If you are facing a child custody dispute, you should contact a child custody attorney. Because there are a lot of rules surrounding child custody and there are a lot of aspects that factor into child custody decisions, working with a child custody attorney can help you through the process.
Source: Nolo, Types of Child Custody, 2014
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