Child custody: 4 basic terms

Parents that get divorced have to face the reality of determining child custody if they have children involved.

It’s more of the courts determining the custody situation, as there is what’s called a “divorce decree” that specifies where the children will live.

This is based on the child’s best interests. Child custody has a few terms, 4 of which are fairly common: physical, legal, joint, and split.

Physical Custody

More often than not, physical custody is “awarded to one parent with whom the child will live most of the time” (FindLaw)

Legal Custody

The custodial parent (the one with majority physical custody) shares “legal custody” of the child with the non-custodial parent (the one without majority physical custody).

This type of custody includes several rights and aspects, involving decisions regarding the child’s education, religion, health care, and others.

Joint Custody

This is an arrangement where the child spends equal time with both parents. One benefit of this is the feeling of loss may be drastically less for the child than in any other custody situation. On the flip side, critics claim that the child needs one “home base” with liberal visitation from the “non-custodial” parent.

The challenge for parents is that joint custody requires probably the most amount of cooperation between both parents. All in all, the child’s best interests must be at the center of the decision.

Because joint custody requires a high degree of cooperation between the parents, courts are reluctant to order joint custody unless both parents are in agreement and can demonstrate the ability to make joint decisions and cooperate for the child’s sake.

Split Custody

This may sound similar to joint custody, but there is a difference. Split custody is where one parent has custody of one or more of the parties’ children, and the other parent has custody of the other(s). The problem here is that siblings are separated, which is something that the courts typically prefer not to do.

In Summary

Well, there you have it: physical, legal, joint, and split custody. If you have any questions on child custody or what you can legally do to protect your kids, we encourage you to contact an experienced family law attorney. At Southern Oaks, Taylor Fontenot is here to provide compassionate but objective advice needed to make tough decisions. Taylor can even give you a complete listing and brief explanation of the child custody factors. Call today and get answers.