Many people have a basic understanding of what child custody is, but the different options for child custody can be confusing. However, it is important to understand what these options are, along with some of the benefits and drawbacks for each, so you are better able to advocate for the best interests of your child.
Physical versus legal custody
Physical custody refers to where a child lives. The parent who has sole physical custody of the child lives with the child most of the time and is responsible for providing for that child on a daily basis.
When this happens, the other parent is usually granted visitation rights and often shares legal custody of the child. Legal custody refers to the parent’s legal ability to make decisions about the child’s life. These decisions can be about the child’s education, religious practice and medical care, as well as other decisions.
Sole versus joint custody
Both physical and legal custody can be sole or joint, meaning one or both parents can have that type of custody. Sole custody can be in the child’s best interests if one parent is unfit to care for the child.
Joint physical custody can be a good way to keep both parents in the child’s life, and it is often paired with joint legal custody as well. For this type of custody to work, typically the parents must live somewhat close to each other, so the child can attend the same school while going back and forth between the two parent’s homes. However, joint custody is still possible if parents do not live close to each other.
Since a new law went into effect in July, joint custody has been the default custody award after parents separate, though it is still possible for a judge to grant sole custody if a situation warrants it. Kentucky is the first state to enact a law like this.
There are several ways custody of a child can be divided. There are also many variables to consider when determining which one is best for your child. Although deciding on a custody arrangement can be difficult, you will be better equipped to make the best decision you can when you have a full understanding of all of your options.