What Are the Different Types of Child Custody Agreements?

What are the types of child custody

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody Agreements?

The decision to divorce your partner is never an easy one to make, especially when children are involved. Likely, you haven’t given much thought to custody agreements in the past, but going into a divorce, the available options become extremely important. Whether you’re considering divorcing your spouse or are newly single, it’s crucial to understand the different types of child custody so you can find the best solution for your kids.

To fully understand custody agreements, you need to familiarize yourself with the distinction between legal custody and physical custody. Below, you can learn more about the types of child custody and what each of them entails.

Legal Custody

Having legal custody of a child means that you have the right and obligation to make decisions regarding your child’s upbringing. This includes medical care, education, and religious upbringing, among other important decisions. In many states, courts would award joint legal custody, which means that both parents share all decision-making about their children.

If you have joint legal custody with the other parent but exclude them from important decisions, they can take you to court and request the judge to review, enforce, or even change the custody agreement. If you enforce the custody agreement, you won’t be fined or go to jail, but this can cause unnecessary friction between you and your ex, which can harm your children in the process. 

Sometimes it’s challenging to share joint custody with a parent who refuses to cooperate. They could be abusive or neglect to communicate essential matters, and in these situations, you can go to court and ask to be awarded sole legal custody. If that happens, you will have to convince a family court judge that granting you sole legal custody is in your children’s best interest.

Physical Custody

When a parent has physical custody, it means their children get to live with them. If a child spends a significant amount of time with both parents, the court will likely award joint physical custody. That way, both parents will be equally responsible for providing life essentials, such as food, shelter, and clothing.

Joint physical custody is also the best solution when parents live close to each other. This would lessen the stress on the children’s everyday life, making it easier for them to adapt to your separation and establish a somewhat normal routine.

Suppose a child lives primarily with one parent (a.k.a. the custodial parent) and has regular visitation time with the other (a.k.a. the noncustodial parent). In that case, the custodial parent likely has sole physical custody, and the noncustodial parent has parenting time or scheduled visitation with their children.

Sole Custody

As a parent, you can either have sole physical custody or sole legal custody of a child. If the other parent is deemed unfit, the court would likely award sole physical custody to you. A parent can be unfit to raise their children if there is proof of child neglect or abuse, alcohol or drug dependency, and a range of other repetitive behaviors.

In most states, courts are moving toward enlarging the role of both parents in raising their children. Even if a parent gets sole physical custody, both parents will likely share joint legal custody, and the noncustodial parent will have an agreeable visitation schedule. Both parents will be part of the decision-making process in these types of circumstances, but only one of the parents will be considered the primary physical caretaker.

Unfortunately, not every divorce is amicable, and there could be certain animosity and resentment between the parents. You must try not to seek sole custody to spite your ex or soon-to-be-ex because that most likely won’t be in the best interest of your children. However, if the other parent is a threat to the well-being of your children, you need to seek sole custody. Even then, though, the court may still allow supervised visitation to that parent.

Joint Custody

When parents have joint custody of their children, they both have the right to participate in important decisions about their kids’ lives and upbringing. However, it’s usually up to the co-parents, not the court, to decide how they will navigate their joint responsibility in day-to-day life. In the unfortunate event that one of the parents excludes the other from the decision-making process or hides vital information from them, the other parent can take their ex to court for violating the court order of joint custody. This can harm the relationship of the parents and their relationship with their children. That’s why it’s imperative to adopt an inclusive approach to parenting and make sure none of you is violating the other parent’s rights.

It’s common for courts to grant joint physical custody as it is the general consensus that spending quality time with both parents is beneficial to the happiness and health of children in the long run. However, this type of joint custody agreement does not require a child to spend equal amounts of time with both parents. It rather means that both parents get to spend a significant amount of time with their children. The exact amount of time is often determined and agreed upon by the parents.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

The majority of family law professionals prefer to help co-parents reach a custody agreement outside of a courtroom. Agreeing on a parenting arrangement in a cooperative and fair manner sets the right tone for every co-parenting relationship. It also shows both parents are putting the well-being of their children above anything else. Out-of-court agreements also take less time and money than battling things out in court.

However, if co-parents can’t reach an agreement about the custody of their children, it will be up to a family court judge to determine the custody arrangement.



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Family Law FAQ

With major life events and changes, it’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer. Getting through a divorce may also be a very stressful project and you need someone experienced to protect your rights as well as protect your children’s rights (if you have any). Here at Legal Chiefs, we can get you in touch with someone current with the laws in your state concerning divorce, marriage, marital property, child custody, visitation, and family support
The grounds for divorce may be based on no-fault or fault depending on the state, but no-fault divorce is available in some form in all 50 states. Most of the states also have fault-based grounds as an additional option. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither of the partners blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage and common bases for no-fault divorce may be “incompatibility,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “irreconcilable differences.” Suppose the parties have lived separately for a certain period with the intent that the separation is permanent. In that case, it is another common basis of no-fault, but once again, the specifics vary from state to state. With a fault-based divorce, the list of grounds may include physical cruelty, mental cruelty, adultery, attempted murder, habitual drunkenness, desertion, use of addictive drugs, impotence, insanity, and infection of one’s spouse with venereal disease.
While every divorce starts with a bit of bitterness, statistics show that most of the cases are settled without the need for a judge to decide on a property or other issues. In most cases, spouses are free to divide their property as they see fit in what is called a “marital settlement agreement”, a contract between the married couple that divides property and debts and resolves other divorce issues. However, having a family law attorney is still recommended, and in case the division of property cannot be settled, then the court must make the determination. Once again, the specifics vary from state to state, but many states allow both parties to keep their separate and nonmarital properties as a starting point. Another thing to know about assets and divorce is how dividing marital or community property works. Again, each state has its specifics, and some states are community property states by definition. For example, the state of California divides equality marital property unless a premarital agreement specifies otherwise. However, most states apply the “equitable distribution” concept where the court divides the marital property as it thinks fair. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50-50 division. The common factors considered by the court include the amount of nonmarital property, each spouse’s earning power, waste and dissipation, fault, services as a homemaker, duration of the marriage, age, health, and others.
When parents can’t agree on custody of their child/children, the court will decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.” There are many factors involved, not one of which is considered the most important.
Joint custody has two parts - joint legal custody and joint physical custody, and a joint custody order can have both or one of the parts. ● Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the significant decisions regarding their child/children, which usually include school, health care, and religious training. Other decisions may include summer camps, extracurricular activities, the age for dating or getting a job, discipline methods, etc. ● Joint physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible and can range from dividing the time between the two parents’ equality to visits every other weekend, and so on. The residing addresses of the parents are often considered, and living close is important, especially in situations where the time spent with both parents will be divided equally.
Since 1965, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation enabling grandparents to petition the courts for visitation rights with grandchildren. However, granting such rights is not automatic, and in most cases, grandparents merely have grounds for asking for a visitation order. Most commonly, a grandparent may petition for visitation after the death of a parent or upon divorce of the parents. Some states allow petitions when the child has previously lived with the grandparent, a child is born out of wedlock, and when a parent is incarcerated.
Unlike most legal matters where specifics depend on the state, talking to a judge separately is prohibited in all 50 states. All communication with the judge takes place on the record during a hearing. This is a way of ensuring fairness to both sides, and just as you would not want the judge to talk to the other party without you being present, the judge is not allowed to talk to you without the other party being present.
Only before a judge has done anything on the case, each party files one “peremptory challenge.” It costs $450, and there is no way to waive this fee. A new judge will be randomly assigned to your case, meaning you cannot pick the new judge. Be careful with the strict timing requirements for filing a peremptory challenge, as the money spent on a challenge is not refunded.