Custody Arrangements

Aug 8, 2012 by

When divorcing parents cannot come to agreement on the terms of child custody or visitation arrangements in a divorce case, it will be up to the court to make the final decision. Child custody can be granted to one parent, both parents, and even someone else outside the home.  With an eye for what is in the best interests of the children, the court will consider the health, safety and welfare of the children, including any abusive behavior in the home. A judge might consider the wishes of a child if the kid is old enough to make rational decisions, but the judge is not required to implement a child’s plan.

Most court-ordered custody arrangements are based on various factors in the household and how they will ultimately affect the children. One parent might be awarded sole physical custody and the other granted visitation only. However, if there abuse or a threat to the children presenting the home, the offending spouse will likely not be granted any custody or visitation rights at all. If parental custody is harmful for the children, grandparents and other relatives could be granted custody. It is not easy, but it is possible to change a custody arrangement after the terms have already been established. When the fundamental circumstances in the home change, the court can modify or rewrite the custody orders if it believes there is cause. When both parents agree on a custody modification, the judge has the discretion to modify the orders without a hearing at all.

There are several different types of custody and it is important to understand how they differ before you enter into any agreements. Child custody has two main components, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is when a parent has the right to make choices for a child concerning things like medical decisions, educational decisions, and living arrangements. Physical custody is when a parent has actual physical contact with the child in the home where the child lives, eats, and sleeps. The topic gets a little more confusing when one considers the different categories of custody define the type of actual custody that is in effect. For example, sole custody or full custody is when one parent has both legal and physical custody and the remaining spouse has visitation rights only. A parent with sole custody will make all the decisions for the child and the spouse with visitation only will not be making any decisions for the child at all.

Complicating things a bit further, joint legal custody allows both parents to make decisions concerning education, medicine, and other issues regardless of where the child actually lives. Parents with joint legal custody who have a disagreements on major issues must ultimately defer to the court to make the decisions. The court may also order joint physical custody where one or both parents are named primary custodians so that the child can spend equal amounts of time with both. The court also has the power to combine different types of custody together. This might result in situations where one parent might share joint legal custody, but have sole physical custody in the home. However, when both parents are in mutual agreement the court can also order them to share joint legal custody as well as joint physical custody.

Defining Child Custody –

Physical Custody – One parent has a child living with them by court order.

Legal Custody ““ One parent has the right to make decisions concerning a child’s health, education and welfare.

Sole Custody – One parent has been granted sole physical custody of a child and the other parent has visitation rights only.

Sole Physical Custody – Awarded to one parent is the other is unfit due to addiction, abuse or neglect.

Sole Legal Custody – One parent makes all the decisions and the other parent may only have visitation rights.

Joint Custody – Both parents live separately but share equal custody of the children

Joint Physical Custody – Both parents will share equal amounts of time living with the child.

Joint Legal Custody – Both parents share equal legal responsibilities for the children.


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