Divorce is a complicated process but is often more complicated for couples with children. The main hurdle that these couples face is determining who will get custody of the kids.
One reason this can be difficult is because most people are not familiar with the different types of custody. Thus, familiarizing oneself with of the types of custody is one way to ease the process.
Physical versus legal custody
Custody can refer to either physical or legal custody. A parent with physical custody will provide care to a child on a daily basis. Accordingly, the child will live with a parent who is awarded physical custody.
Alternatively, a parent with legal custody will have a right to make important decisions regarding how a child is raised. This includes decisions regarding religion, medical care, and which school the child will attend.
Sole versus joint custody
Custody can also refer to sole or joint custody. A parent with sole custody will not share any of the parenting rights or responsibilities with the other parent. Sole custody is usually only awarded if the other parent is determined to be an unfit parent. A parent might be considered unfit if there is evidence of drug addiction or child abuse. The unfit parent may still be entitled to visitation, but the other parent will maintain both physical and legal custody.
Ultimately, most parents maintain joint custody, where both parents share the rights and responsibilities associated with raising a child. There are a range of possible joint custody arrangements, as parents can share physical custody, legal custody, or both.
If parents share physical custody but not legal custody, then the child will spend time living with both parents but only one of them will make the parenting decisions. If they share legal custody but not physical custody, then they will cooperatively make parenting decisions, but the child will only live with one of them. Lastly, if they share both, then they will take turns housing the child and make important decisions together.
In light of the different possible custody arrangement, it may be wise to consult with an experienced attorney when going through a divorce. They can help those with questions better understand the available options and work to achieve the best possible outcome for a family.