When parents divorce, one of both of them usually seeks custody of the children. There are different types of physical and legal custody, the major categories being sole custody and joint custody. Learning the difference between these can make it easier for parents to win custody during divorce. This knowledge helps them put together strong cases for the desired type of custody. The difference between sole and joint custody is striking, and only an experienced family law attorney can let you know what your rights are and what you need to know!
Sole and Joint Custody Differences
Physical custody is the right to live with a child and legal custody is the right to make decisions that pertain to the life of the child. For each type, parents may receive joint custody, in which they share responsibility, or one parent may receive sole custody. For example, with joint custody in divorce, the parents share physical and legal custody of their children.
If one parent is granted sole legal custody, he or she is entitled to make all decisions regarding the children’s lives. If a parent receives sole physical custody, the children live with him or her exclusively. The other parent, called the non-custodial parent, may receive visitation rights and share legal custody. Sole physical custody is not typically awarded by a court unless one parent is determined unfit.
In the past, mothers often received sole custody or the majority of physical custody because they were deemed natural caregivers. Legal views have changed in recent decades and more fathers are getting joint custody, allowing them to play more active roles in the lives of their children. Custody decisions are now based on the best interests of the children, allowing many parents to share both legal and physical custody.
Parenting Agreements Settle Custody Issues
Parents may work out custody arrangements themselves or let a court make these decisions. A court usually intervenes when there is a custody fight during divorce proceedings and parents are unable to come to an agreement. Alternative dispute resolution with assistance from an attorney is one way to reach an understanding and avoid the time, stress, and expense of a court case. Parents should explore this option if they are struggling to agree on custody arrangements.
Attorneys who provide child custody help put together cases to help their clients win custody during divorce. If a parent is seeking sole physical or legal custody, this professional assistance can be invaluable. Whenever parents cannot agree on custody, the services of a lawyer are recommended. In all cases, physical and legal custody arrangements should be put in writing to prevent misunderstandings in the future.