In divorce and paternity cases, there are a number of different options when it comes to custodial arrangements. For example, a custodial arrangement could be sole or joint, depending on the agreement reached by the parties or the circumstances of the case.
If you are consider a divorce case, and you have children, you need to understand the essential elements of family law in your state. You need to have an understanding of the different types of possible custodial arrangements which could be utilized in your case.
Two Types of Custody
There exist two general types of custody in divorce and paternity cases. These are legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody involves which parent is able to make major life decisions on behalf of a child. Major life decisions include things like those related to religion, education, and medical care. Physical custody involves which parent is providing a residence for a child.
Sole Legal Custody
One type of legal custody is sole legal custody. Through a sole legal custody arrangement, only one parent is legally designated with the right to make major life decisions for a child. The other parent technically is not vested with any authority to make major life decisions for the child, or to participate in this decision-making process.
In most jurisdictions, sole legal custody is not favored. More often than not, a court favors joint legal custody, so that both parents will participate in decision making for a child.
An example of a situation in which sole custody will be order or implemented is if one parent is unavailable to participate in the decision-making process. For example, if one parent is incarcerated, that parent may be precluded from joint custody because he or she simply is not available to make decisions.
Joint Legal Custody
In most jurisdictions, joint legal custody is the preferred arrangement. Through joint legal custody, both parents share in the decision making process when it comes to major life issues for the child.
Sole Physical Custody
Sole physical custody involves only one parent having physical custody of a child. The child is legally assigned to live in the residence of only one parent.
Even with sole physical custody, the noncustodial parent normally is permitted to have parenting time or visitation with the child. Parenting time or visitation ideally is regular and sufficient to permit the noncustodial parent the ability to develop a meaningful relationship with the child.
Joint Physical Custody
Joint physical custody involves both parents having physical custody of a child. The child is legally assigned to reside in the residence of both parents.
One parent may be designated as the primary physical custodian, even if it is a joint custody arrangement. In this type of scenario, the child primarily resides with one parent, the other parent having regular parenting time or visitation.
There are other types of joint custodial arrangements. These include share custody. Shared custody involves the child living nearly equally with both parents.
Retain a Child Custody Attorney
If you face a case in which custody is an issue, the best course you can take to protect your legal rights and interests is to retain the services of a skilled, experienced child custody attorney. The fist step in retaining a child custody lawyer is to schedule what is known as an initial consultation.
During an initial consultation, an attorney provides you with an evaluation of your case and your options when it comes to child custody matters. Legal counsel will also provide answers to any questions you may have regarding your case. As a general rule, there is no fee charged for an initial consultation in a child custody case.