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Global Guide to Divorce
Jack Jack the Cat

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody have distinct differences and it is important to understand these during divorce negotiations.

Sole Custody can be granted to one parent when the other or the partner is abusive or impared.  The courts across the country are moving away from granting this type of custody and are giving Legal Custody to both parents. In sole custody, the  one parent has complete say in the child’s decisions and does not have to consult the other one.  If one parent is completely out of the picture, then this is when sole custody is more likely to be awarded.

Legal Custody is usually granted to both parents and this allows them to make decisions regarding the child’s medical, educational, religious and schooling even if one parent is in jail.  The incarcerated parent can still have imput on the child’s upbringing. When a parent has alcohol or drug abuse, then visitation may be supervised, but legal custody can still be awarded.  If a parent makes important changes, such as a school, the other parent can take that parent to court if he was not consulted in this decision.  Although my children had visitation, I was reprimanded for not informing my son’s father that our child had gotten a job during our divorce. If the other parent is abusive, Legal Custody can still be awarded, with a court mediator being appointed.  Then all communication between parents would go through this person.

Physical Custody is granted to the parent where the child completely or mainly resides. This may be that the child lives with his mother during the week and stays at his father’s house on the weekends.  It also is awarded to a parent when there is no overnight visits or in cases where visitation is supervised.

Joint Custody is when the child spends part of the week at each parent’s house or alternates every other week.  It is close to 50/50 and often the parents live nearby to make it easier for the child schooling.

Instances of where  family members, other than parents, are awarded custody are becoming more common.  This is particularly  the case when both parents are impaired or incarcerated.  Then grandparents, aunts or uncles may be granted custody. I personally am seeing this more and more in the public schools. I am having to call a grandparent to pick up a sick child or  ask an aunt to obtain permission to give a medication.