Child Custody which parent gets the child

The 4 Different Types of Child Custody

Making the decision to divorce is never easy, and going through the divorce is just as hard.  Divorcing couples must decide how to divide their assets, their debts, move homes, and so much more.  For couples with children, divorcing also brings up the difficult decision of how to co-parent the children, including issues concerning child custody and child support.  If you are a parent going through a divorce, these decisions may feel overwhelming at first.  Educating yourself about the various types of child custody can help you to make an informed decision about what’s best for your children.  A child custody lawyer can help you understand your options.  Read on to learn more about the four different types of child custody.

Decisions About Child Custody

Child custody can be a contentious topic.  In the best-case scenario, the divorcing parents can come to an agreement themselves about what works best for their family.  But a divorce can be bitter, and sometimes kids get caught in the crossfire.  If the parents cannot come to an agreement about the children on their own, a judge in family court will make the decision.  No matter who makes the decision–the parents or the court–these are the four types of child custody:

  • Legal Custody:  Legal custody does not refer to where the children actually live.  It refers to which parent can make decisions for the children concerning important topics such as education, religion, and healthcare.  In most cases, a judge will grant legal custody to both parents, regardless of where the children reside.  A situation like this, both parents can be involved in decision-making for their children.  Some judges may award one parent sole legal custody.  In this case, that parent can make important decisions without consulting the other parent.


  • Physical Custody: Physical custody refers to which parent the children spend most of their time with.  The parent who does not have physical custody is usually granted visitation rights.  Historically, mothers were granted physical custody and fathers had visitation rights.  Although, the most common setup was for children to live with their mothers and spend every other weekend with their fathers.  In current times, joint physical custody is a more common arrangement.  Here, children spend half their time with each parent, often in an every-other-week set up or even two days on, two days off arrangement.

Joint and Sole Custody Explained


  • Joint Custody: Joint custody means that both parents have equal rights concerning the children.  As mentioned above, joint physical means that the children spend equal amounts of time with each parent.  Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal input when it comes to major decisions concerning the children.  Joint legal and physical custody is the most common child custody arrangement. 


  • Sole Custody: Sole custody means that just one parent has custody of the children.  A judge may award a parent sole physical custody, sole legal custody, or both.  The other parent may still have visitation rights even with a sole custody arrangement.  Sole custody arrangements are not very common right now. Parents deemed unfit by the court is usually when this happens

If you are going through a divorce and have questions about child custody arrangements, reach out to the law office of Paul H. Bowen.  He has years of experience in family law and child custody issues.  Also, Paul can help you work through your options to figure out what is best for you and your children.