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Understanding the Different Types of Child Custody

Updated on March 15, 2013
Father and Son
Father and Son

Child Custody during Divorce

Dealing with the custody of the children is often one of the most painful aspects of divorce. It is frightening to think you could lose all your rights to make decisions concerning your child’s well-being and the emotions can be nearly overwhelming. In order to deal with the situation most effectively, it is important for you to understand what types of custody options are available.

Fighting for Custody of your Children

Physical Custody

When the courts grant physical custody to a parent, it gives them the right to have the child live with him/her. When the child lives primarily with that parent and has visitation with the other parent, it is generally the parent he lives with that is granted sole physical custody.

The courts can also grant joint physical custody. Joint physical custody is often an option that works well when both parents live near each other. This allows children to feel less stress about the divorce and maintain a more normal routine in their lives.

Legal Custody

Legal custody of a child allows the parent to make the decisions regarding the children’s’ upbringing. Legal custody grants the parent the right to decide what school the child will attend, what type of medical care they receive, what religion they will be taught and other important issues.

• Joint legal custody allows both parents the right to make those decisions and they must share that responsibility. If you share joint legal responsibility, you are obligated to inform the other parent about necessary decisions. If you attempt to exclude that parent from those decisions, they can take you before the judge and ask that the custody agreement be enforced. This is not only time consuming and costly, if you decide to pay a lawyer, it adds to the tension between you and your former spouse. The children never benefit from that situation.

• Sole legal custody grants the decision-making rights to only one parent. The other parent no longer has any legal rights to make decisions regarding the children. This may be the best option if the other parent has issues with drug and alcohol dependency, abuse or other problems. Frequently, though, the courts prefer to grant joint legal custody.

Bird’s Nest Custody

This form of custody is more unusual. In this situation, the children stay in place in the home and the parents travel between homes. For instance, the mother might stay in the home with the children on Sunday through Wednesday, while the father lives there Thursday through Saturday.

This is often an excellent resolution for the children; it can be difficult for the parents, however. It is more costly, because both parents must maintain a separate residence and help preserve the children’s home. They are now supporting three homes between them. It also forces the parents to maintain regular contact with each other. This arrangement is very difficult to sustain if the parents are combative or unable to communicate effectively.

Regardless of your personal situation, everyone wants the arrangements that are most beneficial to the children. If you are faced with custody issues, you are urged to keep the best interest of the children in the forefront and to seek the guidance of an experienced family-law attorney.


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    • Equality For Men profile image

      Equality For Men 9 years ago from USA

      Great and Informative page about child custody and how to fight for it.

      Thank you for taking the time to write this.