Partial custody is a legal phrase that refers to a separated or divorced couples’ ability to retain a portion of custody rights over their child or children.

This means that a parent who is granted “partial custody” of their child will generally have less of a say over the child’s life, as well as a shorter amount of visitation time in comparison to the other parent.

Although these terms may vary by jurisdiction, the parent with the greater custody rights is typically called the “primary custodial parent.” The parent with partial custody rights is then deemed the “non-custodial parent.”

The phrase partial custody normally comes up in relation to joint custody arrangements. Joint custody implies that the parents have unequal custody rights. If the parents have agreed to split their time equally with the child, then this is known as having “shared custody.”

One final thing to know about the nature of custody arrangements is that whether it is partial, joint, or shared, it all revolves around two primary concepts: physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to the location of where the child spends most of their time. Legal custody on the other hand provides the parents with certain rights to make major life decisions on their child’s behalf. 

How are Custody Rights Divided?

Child custody rights are divided by a court and are often based on a number of different factors. The court’s analysis will typically include the following considerations:

  • The mental well-being and physical fitness of each parent;
  • Any decisions or comments that come from state agencies, such as a child welfare department;
  • Whether the child has any special needs that require more attention, such as medical issues;
  • How well the child is adjusted to their current living situation (e.g., their home environment, school, neighborhood, friends, and so on);
  • The separate financial background of each parent; and
  • In some cases, which parent the child prefers, and if it would be in their best interest to remain with that parent.

The division of custody rights is usually determined by the judge during a formal court proceeding. However, the judge may also consider any previous custody agreements or admissions made by the parties outside of court, such as during a family mediation meeting

It is important to note that the court’s final decision will primarily depend on the child’s best interest standard. This is to ensure that the child will be safe, as well as adds a layer of protection for the child’s well-being.

Whether the court makes the decision on its own or relies on the custody agreement that the parties voluntarily entered into, it will formalize the order. This will have the effect of making the custody arrangement legally enforceable by law. 

Therefore, if one of the parties violates the order, they could face serious legal repercussions, including losing their custodial, visitation, and other various parental rights. In some cases, a violation could also lead to criminal consequences, such as having to pay fines or serve jail time. 

Can Partial Custody Rights be Taken Away or Lost?

In certain instances, custody rights can actually be lost or revoked. Some of these circumstances include when:

  • A parent is facing criminal charges or has violated the law;
  • There was a violation of the child custody order or visitation rights; 
  • The parent has become either incarcerated, deceased, or incapacitated; or
  • There were incidents that threatened the well-being of the child, such as domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, or other types of family law violations.

If one of the above scenarios arises or if there is a significant life event that impacts the current shared custody arrangement, then the parties may seek to have their agreement modified by the court. 

While the court will take extenuating circumstances into consideration when deciding whether or not to modify the parties’ agreement, the judge is not automatically required to grant it. 

Thus, if you are seeking to have a partial custody arrangement altered, then you should strongly consider hiring an attorney to advocate on your behalf.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with Partial Custody Laws?

Regardless of the type of custody arrangement you are seeking, child custody cases can be challenging in general. Procedurally, they can be difficult because partial custody laws often vary by state and decisions are usually made on a case by case basis, due to the changing factors associated with each matter.

Depending on how civil the parties are with one another, child custody cases can also take an emotional toll on everyone involved, especially the child. Therefore, if you are entering into a partial custody arrangement, you may want to consider hiring a local child custody lawyer for further assistance. 

A qualified child custody lawyer will be able to help you with submitting your request for partial custody of your child, can efficiently guide you through the process regarding a partial custody arrangement, and can represent you and your child’s best interests during either a mediation session, or in a court of law. 

Additionally, an attorney can also help with the process of modifying a partial custody agreement in the event that your circumstances have changed.