The court awards the custodial parent with the physical and legal custody of a child. Sometimes the court may award joint custody of the child to both parents. But the parent that shares the majority of the responsibility and resides with the child is considered the custodial parent. The parent that has visitation rights is the noncustodial parent. 

There are several types of custodies, including physical and legal. Legal custody is the right of a parent to make important decisions about the child’s life such as the child’s medical health or religious training. In comparison, physical custody is the actual physical care and control of the child. 

What are the Different Types of Custody?

There are several types of custodies a parent or a legal guardian can be awarded. There is physical, legal, sole and joint custody. Physical custody is the right to have the child reside in the household with you. Additionally, joint physical custody can be awarded to both parents by the courts, to ensure that they are able to spend a reasonable amount of time with their child. 

The child’s best interests standard used in these cases requires that they maintain a low stress environment and this joint physical custody would function better if the parents lived relatively close by. However, if the child lives primarily with one parent over the other, the court awards sole physical custody to that parent also known as the custodial parent and the other parent visitation rights. 

Legal custody is awarding the parent the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing and mainly making decisions for their schooling, healthcare and religious values. Courts can also award joint legal custody. 

It is crucial if parents are awarded joint legal custody that they include each other in the decision making process. If one excludes the other from it, that excluded parent can request the court to demand the other parent to include them by enforcing their legal custody agreement. 

Sole custody is awarding only the parent who is fit to take responsibility for the child and take care of them. Usually courts determine if a parent is unfit and consider if the child is being abused or neglected. 

Most states encourage joint custody and do not generally award sole custody unless the child is being abused by that parent. It is necessary for the child’s healthy physical and mental upbringing to spend time with both the parents. 

Joint custody is both parents sharing the responsibilities of the upbringing of the child. This type of custody exists for parents that are divorced, separated, or no longer cohabiting, or even if they never lived together. The joint custody arrangements have the detailed schedule of how the child’s time will be split among them both. 

If the parents have major disagreements, the courts step in but usually the parents have discretion to independently determine the schedule that works for the child. Some “nesting” arrangements allow the child to stay in the family home and the parents can alternate in spending time with them there. 

How Does the Court Decide Who is The Custodial Parent?

The courts need to decide on this difficult question of who gets custody. This is perhaps the single most important question that will significantly impact the child’s future and life after the parent’s divorce. 

The courts look at many factors and determine who is fit to be the custodial parent for the child. One of the first considerations is determining which of the parents is the primary caretaker. 

Here are some of the tasks the court examines to determine who does the majority of the child’s tasks: 

  • Bathing and grooming;
  • Cooking and planning meals;
  • Healthcare decisions;
  • Teaching the basic education of reading and helping with homework and;
  • Planning with recreational activities.

If the parents cannot come to a decision the courts usually assign a custodial parent to determine the factors and along with the child’s best interests. The standard for that includes the following considerations: 

  • The physical and mental health of parents; 
  • Whether the child has any special needs that need to be taken care of;
  • A healthy and a stable home environment;
  • What are the child’s own wishes, if they are old enough to express their feelings;
  • How are interactions and relationships with other members of the household;
  • Is there is evidence of drug or alcohol abuse and;
  • How the child will adjust to the community.

The child’s best interest takes priority over what the parent wants because ultimately the child is in a vulnerable position in terms of making decisions that will have a major impact on their future. 

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you and your soon to be ex-spouse have children it would be important to determine to decide on these issues. If both of you can come to an agreement on the type of custody you want to agree on, it would be the ideal situation. 

However, if there is disagreement or you think the other spouse is violating an already existing custody agreement, it is recommended to contact your local family law lawyer.